Game 7! San Miguel vs Magnolia series goes the distance
With their reign and legacy on the line, four-time defending champion San Miguel Beer lived up to all the pre-Finals hype on Sunday night to topple Magnolia, 98-86, and forge a you-or-me duel for the PBA Philippine Cup title at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen left nothing to chance, buckling down to work right from the get-go to build comfortable leads early before fending off several dogged rallies by the Hotshots and necessitate a Game 7 Wednesday also at the Big Dome.
Chris Ross did the damage from afar and June Mar Fajardo anchored the Beermen’s inside game with impunity as San Miguel led by as large as 21 points early to practically take the Hotshots’ confidence away.
And when the duo blew cold, Marcio Lassiter and Christian Standhardinger cranked it up in the second half to help quell the Hotshots’ spirited tries mounting a comeback and set up a fitting culmination to a see-saw series between teams that flaunt contrasting styles.
“You can see it in the players that they didn’t want to lose. You could see it in the players that losing would mean relinquishing our title to our opponents [and they don’t like that],” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria.
“While they (Hotshots) made a run, we remained composed,” he added.
Fajardo paced San Miguel with 23 points. Lassiter looked like he has regained his lethal form, finishing with 20 as Ross and Standhardinger posted 17 and 16, respectively.
Interestingly, the victory marked the first time in this series that San Miguel failed to score at least 100 points in winning.
Austria actually likes that.
“I actually told them I don’t care if we scored more or less than 90 points tonight as long as we’re playing defense,” said Austria.
He believes that his charges are more than just a well-oiled offensive machine.
“Defense wins championships, as great coaches would say. We know that when it comes to offense, we’re the first or second-ranked team. But we can’t rely only on that,” he told the Inquirer.
Magnolia bore the brunt of its production from Jio Jalalon, who scored 17 points.
But the Hotshots couldn’t match the Beermen’s might especially with Game 6 hero Mark Barroca limited to just six points.
“Now we have a good chance to grab [the title] again,” Austria said of the decider, slated at 7 p.m. “I just hope we could score two straight wins over them. It has never happened this series.”
San Miguel will be playing its first Game 7 since their famed ‘Beeracle’ run in the 2016 Philippine Cup, when it erased a 0-3 deficit against Alaska to complete the most remarkable comeback in the PBA—if not in all of pro sports.
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