By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE defending champions San Miguel Beermen get to extend their reign in the PBA Philippine Cup after defeating and eliminating the TNT KaTropa, 96-86, in their Game Three quarterfinal rubber match on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Found an opening in the early goings of the match, the Beermen seized the moment and never let go of it to advance to the semifinal round of the season-opening Philippine Basketball Association tournament.
TNT struggled mightily on the offensive end to start the game which San Miguel capitalized on.
The Beermen outscored the KaTropa, 13-2, in the first five minutes of the opening quarter and moved on to hold sway, 25-10, when the smoke cleared.
San Miguel did not relent on its attack in the second canto, with Alex Cabagnot and June Mar Fajardo on the firing end.
It stretched its lead to 22 points, 44-22, at the 3:48 mark, before extending the distance further the rest of the way to take a 53-27 advantage at halftime.
TNT came out of the third period with more fire, opening with a 5-0 run in the first 39 seconds, care of Ken Bono and Jayson Castro, to narrow the gap, 53-32.
But the Beermen were quick to reestablish control as they went to Mr. Fajardo anew to pound on the TNT defense on the low block.
They held a 23-point lead, 66-43, with five minutes to go.
TNT continued to fight though to trim its deficit, 77-55, heading into the fourth quarter.
In the payoff period, San Miguel continued to give it to TNT, outgunning the latter, 8-4, to reestablish a 26-point lead, 85-59, with just two minutes lapsing.
From there it was all Beermen, who kept maintaining a very comfortable distance.
The score was at 88-66 at the halfway point and San Miguel just cruised all the way to the final buzzer.
Mr. Fajardo finished with 32 points and 14 boards to lead the Beermen to the victory.
Christian Standhardinger had 17 points while Terrence Romeo had 11 of his own.
For TNT it was Roger Pogoy who led with 17 points, followed by Brian Heruela, Yousif Taha, Troy Rosario and Mr. Castro with 10 points each.
“Credit to the entire team. We really wanted to go back to the finals and this is another step for us,” said Mr. Fajardo, named player of the game, after their win.
San Miguel now faces the top seeds Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters in a best-of-seven semifinal affair which begins later this week.