THANKS largely to career playoffs high from Jericho Cruz, San Miguel Beer is back in the driver's seat, with two cracks at making the mountaintop.
Once again a beleaguered lot, the Hotshots need to win two in a row to salvage the series and end a six-year drought.
Derailed in Game 3 then denied a second time in the next game, the Beermen snapped out of the rut and took the pivotal 3-2 lead with a 108-98 victory over the fierce-fighting Magnolia Hotshots in the PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Cruz and the Beermen ripped apart the Magnolia shackles after being held to an average of 82.5 points in the last two games.
Cruz led the SMB shooting party with eight three-pointers and a total of 30 points, with three other SMB gunners rifling in a combined eight treys as the Beermen grabbed the crucial Game 5 and thus moved within a win of reclaiming the Commissioner's Cup crown they last won in 2019.
Overall, the Beermen shoot for their 29th championship as they face the Hotshots at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Game 6.
The Beermen were not to be denied in Game 5 with their 37-percent three-point shooting -- and 41-percent overall - as against the Hotshots' mere 10-of-26 treys.
Simon Enciso (5-of-9), Don Trollano (2-of-3) and Bennie Boatwright (1-of-6) had their connections from down town as June Mar Fajardo threw his weight around the paint, collecting an 18-point and 15-rebound double-double.
But Cruz shone brightest with his fiery shooting capped by his eighth triple that stopped the Magnolia rally, 102-96, down the stretch.
The former Adamson Falcon was 11-of-22 overall from the field while also logging in eight rebounds, four assists and four steals against three rebounds in what's easily his biggest game in a long while.
He averaged just 9.6 points in the series, down from his 11.1 norm in the elims.
Boatwright, locked in a tough battle with Tyler Bey, scored 21 points, with Enciso adding 15, Trollano 10 and CJ Perez eight.
Bey led the Magnolia fight with 34 points on top of eight rebounds while Jio Jalalon and Ian Sangalang contributed 17 and 15 as Mark Barroca struggled for four on 2-of-7 clip. Paul Lee tallied 12, playing off the bench.(SB)