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PBA: Beermen tie series

San Miguel's Marcio Lassiter tries to evade the defense of Alaska's Tony Dela Cruz and Calvin Abueva during PBA action at Smart Araneta Coliseum.   Photo by Tony Pionilla

Game Tomorrow (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Alaska vs San Miguel

Manila, Philippines – A tweak in the starting lineup has allowed the San Miguel Beermen to gift-wrap the best birthday present for their rarely-seen team owner.

After coming off the bench in the first three games of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals, Alex Cabagnot started in Game 4 last night, providing lights-out shooting in the first half and court-generalship throughout as San Miguel downed the Alaska Aces, 88-70, to level at 2-2 the best-of-7 championship at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The pivotal Game 5 is at 7 p.m. tomorrow, with the extremely-physical title series reduced to a best-of-3 and SMB regaining momentum after another blowout win.

Up, 2-1, after a nerve-racking fightback from 18 points down in the fourth quarter of Game 4 on Sunday, Alaska was looking for a back-to-back win that would put SMB in a deep hole.

But the Beermen were not to be denied a victory on the evening SMC president and chief operation officer Ramon S. Ang was celebrating his 61st birthday as the Aces failed to produce another comeback magic similar to Games 1 and 3.

Averaging just 6.7 points per game in the finals, Cabagnot reveled in his new role by unloading 22 points with 4 three-point shots in 35 minutes.

“My first three games were subpar and it’s God’s will that my shots just went in,” said Cabagnot. “We just tinkered with the starting lineup. Buti naman naging buwenas.”

Five other SMB players were in double figures, with MyPhone-PBA Best Player of the Conference choice June Mar Fajardo adding 11 points with 11 rebounds.

It was Fajardo’s second straight BPC trophy, with the 6-foot-10 former University of Cebu star overwhelming his closest rival Calvin Abueva of Alaska.

Abueva was tamed somewhat for although he had 22 points, the rebounding force was held down to 7. No other Aces player had more 9 points, with playmaker JVee Casio scoreless for the first time in his four-year career.

“I think we were able to show that we can also play defense,” said SMB coach Leo Austria, who added that the decision to start Cabagnot was the result of reviewing video tapes of the first three games of the series.

“We got him for a specific reason and I think he finally delivered. The same with Ronald Tubid and Marcio Lassiter because they had little contribution in Game 3,” Austria said.

Alex Compton, the Aces mentor, credited San Miguel’s “great game plan” and “great preparation.”

Said Compton: “We just got beat. Cabagnot was fantastic in the first half.”

SMB raced to a 55-26 spread in the third quarter, a lead that Alaska managed to trim to 17 points but not any closer.