Grand slam-chasing San Miguel Beer made another crucial step towards a possible second straight championship as it disposed of TNT KaTropa, 106-102, to advance to the PBA Commissioner's Cup Final Four at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday night.
Thus, the Beermen face the Aces in a rematch of their Philippine Cup title showdown in 2016 where SMB pulled off its "Beer-acle Run" from a 0-3 series deficit.
With their admirable championship poise, the Beermen outfought the Texters at the finish of a grind-out game and thus set a best-of-five semifinal duel with the Alaska Milk Aces.
From a 98-all count in the last two minutes, Renaldo Balkman, June Mar Fajardo and Chris Ross strung up eight straight charities to deliver the knockout blow on the Texters.
"This is the first time we're in the semis coming from a quarterfinals where we're the lower seed. Yung six championships kasi namin, lagi kaming higher seed. And it's really a tough challenge we went through against TNT," said San Miguel coach Leo Austria.
"Good thing, we learned from the previous game. They had a good start then. If we're not able to come back, disaster sa amin. It happened again tonight, lumamang sila ng malaki sa first quarter. But credit to the championship poise and experience of our players, nakalusot uli kami," Austria added.
"It will be a tough series. With their import that is really fitted with them, they're playing inspired game. They're very dangerous lalo na ang ganda ng nilalaro ni Muscle Man (Vic Manuel)," said SMB coach Leo Austria.
Determined not to let the Texters drag the series to a rubber match, Austria practically used just seven men in his superb five in Balkman, Fajardo, Ross, Marcio Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot and reserves Arwind Santos and Kelly Nabong. Brian Heruela and Matt Ganuelas Rosser both played merely 25 seconds.
Balkman canned in four crucial charities inside the final 45 seconds to highlight a 25-point showing he also laced with eight rebounds and four assists against three errors.
Cabagnot came through with 21 points while Fajardo and Ross had double-double numbers. Fajardo piled up 19 points and 12 rebounds while Ross collected 11 markers and 10 assists.
Terrence Romeo (with 28 points and eight assists), Josh Smith (21 points and 18 rebounds) and Tony Semerad (19 markers) had solid games for the Texters who again got to a good start as in their 110-121 defeat in Game One.
They stood their ground against the more formidable SMB team almost all throughout only to come up short in the end.(SB)
San Miguel 106 - Balkman 25, Cabagnot 21, Fajardo 19, Lassiter 13, Ross 11, Nabong 9, Santos 8, Rosser 0, Heruela 0.
TNT 102 - Romeo 28, Smith 21, Semerad 19, Rosario 11, Castro 7, Pogoy 6, Williams 6, Trollano 3, Taha 1, Carey 0, Reyes 0.
Quarters: 27-32, 55-56, 80-77, 106-102.