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San Miguel Beermen eye 3-0 series lead

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San Miguel Beermen
The San Miguel Beermen look to push the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings on the brink of elimination in Game Three of their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal series today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. San Miguel holds a 2-0 series lead. -- ALVIN S. GO

By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

STOLE what was practically a lost game in Game Two of their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinals, the defending champions San Miguel Beermen try to push the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings on the brink of elimination when they collide for Game Three today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Now holding a 2-0 series lead in their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) semifinal joust, the Beermen are looking to ride on the momentum of their “salvaging” job last time around in their scheduled 7 p.m. match and move one step closer to getting back to the finals and possibly fulfill their quest for a fourth straight Philippine Cup title.

In Game Two on Sunday night, San Miguel used a ferocious charge in the end to pull the rug from under the Kings to stay undefeated in their semifinal pairing.

Guard Marcio Lassiter, who struggled early in the match, starred for the Beermen down the stretch, making the big plays and hitting key baskets, including what turned out to be the game-winning, tip-in basket in overtime to snatch the victory over the Kings.

The sharp-shooting guard pulled his team even at 102-all with two free throws with 15 seconds remaining in OT after which San Miguel was able to force a five-second inbounds violation on Barangay Ginebra’s Joe Devance and set up a winning play.

Off a timeout Mr. Lassiter drove to the basket and made a pass to big man June Mar Fajardo who missed his attempt to the basket.

But Mr. Lassiter was quick to save the day for the Beermen as he tipped in a follow-up shot over Barangay Ginebra’s Scottie Thompson for the game-winner with three seconds to go.

The Kings had no timeouts left and were forced to make a play in the backcourt but to no avail as the final buzzer sounded, sending the Beermen and their faithful into celebration.

Mr. Lassiter finished with 25 points and eight boards, a solid support for Mr. Fajardo who had a huge double-double of 33 markers and 19 rebounds.

Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot had 13 points each while Arwind Santos, who hit key three-pointers in the closing moments of the payoff canto to force the game into overtime, had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“We were lucky to escape with this win. It would easily have been a 1-1 series but the players just did not want to lose. I salute them. This is a big morale-booster for us,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria after their win.

“We knew it was going to be a tough fight. We just kept coming back in the game and it paid off. This is not over though. We need to win two more. It’s first to four just like them,” Mr. Lassiter, for his part, said.

While they were buried deeper in the series, the Kings are not about to surrender their cause, especially since they believe they are not out of it yet.

“We’re still in it. But we know our work is cut out for us and we’ll just do what we need to do,” said Mr. Devance.

Japeth Aguilar led the Kings with 28 points while Prince Caperal had a career-high 26.

The victor in this series takes on the winner of the other best-of-seven semifinal pairing between the Magnolia Hotshots and NLEX Road Warriors.

The Road Warriors held a 1-0 series lead as they battled in Game Two late yesterday.