Aug 17, 2022

Beermen dispose of Bolts, set title duel with Tropa

A classic begging for a repeat was the TNT-SMB Final Four face-off in the PBA Philippine Cup last year.

Here comes the encore -- in the stage where the stakes are most precious.

The Beermen will tangle with the Tropang Giga in PBA Season 47 All-Filipino Last Dance, arranging the highly anticipated date following a 100-89 conquest of the Meralco Bolts in a Game 7 decider of their semis series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday.

Marcio Lassiter started the game with a booming trey, then June Mar Fajardo struck underneath the basket, and the Beermen dominated the Bolts all night en route to making the best-of-seven finals with a chance to reclaim glory in the tourney where they had a great domination from 2015 to 2019.

"Nag-struggle kami early in the tournament because of injuries. Nakapag No. 1 pa rin sa elims, at nakalusot sa quarters at sa semis, but not yet finished. In a tournament, hindi nakikilala ang second place. We have to win the championship to be able to make a legacy," said San Miguel coach Leo Austria.

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The title playoff begins Sunday at the Big Dome with the Tropang Giga on the end of the floor, looking to defend the PBA crown jewel they won over the Magnolia Hotshots in the Bacolor bubble last year.

It will be the sixth title playoff between SMB and TNT, but only the second in the Philippine Cup. The Beermen are up 4-1 in their finals matchups, but the Tropa were triumphant in their lone all-Filipino tiff in the 2010-11 season.

Foiled in their crack at closing out the series in Game 6, the Beermen made sure to do the job in the rubber, with the SMB bench chieftain leaning heavily on his most trusted men, and these nine men all responded to the call.

June Mar Fajardo stuffed his statsline with game-highs of 29 points and 14 rebounds, CJ Perez and Marcio Lassiter contributed 18 and 16 markers while Vic Manuel and Jericho Cruz played solid minutes off the bench, firing away 13 and 12, respectively.

Simon Enciso, Rodney Brondial, Moala Tautuaa and Chris Ross played their part as the Beermen scuttled the Bolts' bid and got the SMB franchise to its 14th all-Filipino finals overall.

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"Credit sa Meralco, ang ganda ng series, pero ang game plan ni Pops (Austria) ang nanaig," said Fajardo.

The gritty Bolts kept fighting back but just couldn't rattle the Beermen, and in the end remained in the hunt for an elusive first all-Filipino finals.
Their dream to break into the PBA championship column will have to wait again.

Austria mentioned the big contribution of SMC sports director Alfrancis Chua. "He's with us in practice (Tuesday), and he inspired the team. Ang laki ng tulong niya," said Austria.

The Beermen played with a great determination from the get-go, taking the opening quarter at 26-12, the half at 45-31 and leading by as big as 23 in their great ride in this knockout setto. (SB)

The Scores:

San Miguel 100 - Fajardo 29, Perez 18, Lassiter 16, Manuel 13, Cruz 12, Tautuaa 7, Enciso 5, Brondial 0.

Meralco 89 - Hodge 23, Newsome 14, Black 13, Almazan 12, Banchero 8, Hugnatan 8, Quinto 7, Maliksi 4, Pasaol 0, Jose 0, Pascual 0.

QUARTERS: 26-12, 45-31, 73-54, 100-89