Manila, Philippines – In the end, it was left to San Miguel Beer to shut the door it carelessly left open for Talk ‘N Text.
The Beermen blew an eight-point lead with 4 minutes left but redeemed themselves with a defensive gem in the dying seconds to deny the Tropang Texters a potential series-saving victory, 96-95, last night in Game 3 of the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Amid a word war that erupted in the social media between two of their top team officials, SMB seized a commanding 3-0 lead in their best-of-7 semis and can complete the sweep with a Game 4 victory on Friday.
No PBA team has come back all the way from such a huge deficit and TNT, which has never before fallen behind 0-3 in franchise history, now faces the daunting task of finding the path from darkness to the light.
Ranidel de Ocampo, who took the inbounds pass with 8.5 seconds remaining and TNT trailing by one, never saw the light of day – or Jimmy Alapag open from 3-point range – as he worked his way against Arwind Santos from the right block in front of the Texters bench.
De Ocampo, 6 of 10 from beyond the arc, spun around Santos at the baseline only to be met by the imposing figure of 6-foot-10 June Mar Fajardo, blotting the line to the basket.
Alapag, 3 of 5 from rainbow area, waved for the pass but was apparently missed by De Ocampo, who took a weak fall-away jumper that basely nicked the rim at the buzzer as the Beermen rejoiced at their big escape.
Santos, held down to 10 points in Game 2, unloaded 23 points with 5 three-pointers, including his last which gave SMB a 95-91 advantage with 1:41 left from several 8-point margins earlier.
“We were lucky to salvage this game,” said SMB coach Leo Austria. “It was a very emotional win because of what was going on in the websites.”
Everything appears to have been patched up between SMB governor Robert Non, the league vice chairman, and his TNT counterpart Ricky Vargas at game time, but their scathing statements were banner material for the social media the day before.
“I told my players not to be affected, but they really sensed that something was happening from what they read,” said Austria. “Anyway, I believe everything’s all right between them.”
SAN MIGUEL 96 – Santos 23, Fajardo 18, Lassiter 17, Maierhofer 10, Cabagnot 9, Lutz 8, Tubid 7, Ross 2, Kramer 2, Omolon 0, Pascual 0, Fortuna 0, Semerad 0, Chua 0.
TALK N’ TEXT 95 – De Ocampo 21, Castro 15, Washington 12, Alapag 11, Reyes R. 10, Rosser 9, Carey 7, Fonacier 7, Aban 3, Alas 0, Reyes R.J. 0, Williams 0, Espiritu 0.
Quarters: 26-28, 49-55, 75-76, 96-95