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PBA: SMB takes game 5

Fajardo, Eman and Manuel

Game Tomorrow (Smart Araneta)
7:30 p.m. – Alaska vs San Miguel (Game 6)

Manila, Philippines – San Miguel Beer didn’t need six players in double figures this time, just June Mar Fajardo posting his usual double-double and Arwind Santos lending a hand in darkening the skies for the Alaska Aces.

Fajardo and Santos each had 19 points and five block shots as the Beermen weathered a fierce fourth quarter stand by the Aces, 93-88, last night to grab a 3-2 lead in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

SMB can wrap up its first PH Cup title in 14 years with a victory in Game 6 tomorrow.

“We’re here to win championships and we were given an opportunity to win one, so why not?” said SMB coach Leo Austria when asked if he is looking beyond Sunday.

Fajardo hauled down 13 rebounds and Santos 9 with 4 assists while Marcio Lassiter added 16 points with three 3-pointers. Alex Cabagnot, Chris Lutz and Ronald Tubid, the three other SMB players who torched the Aces in Game 4, had their contributions as well though not as significant as last Wednesday’s.

Abueva, Tubid

Calvin Abueva led the Aces with 24 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out late in the game and Cyrus Baguio added 12 of his 19 points in the third quarter. But point guard JVee Casio remained mired in a shooting funk after going 0 of 2 the previous game, remaining scoreless in two games after missing all 8 of his shots, 6 of them 3-pointers.

Casio’s scoring absence was critical to Alaska losing back-to-back championship games in the best-of-7 series, as well as the 40 free throws awarded the Beermen which Aces coach Alex Compton repeatedly pointed to.

Asked if Casio is injured, Compton said, ‘Not that I’m aware of, but JVee will be fine.”

Of SMB’s 29 of 40 charities (to Alaska’s 17 of 26), Compton said: “We commit a number of silly fouls but I don’t think those 40 free throws came from those silly fouls.”

Though only 11 out of 33 teams have come back to win a best-of-7 finals after falling behind, 3-2, Compton stayed positive. Interestingly, Alaska accounted for 3 of those 11, with two coming against San Miguel.

“If we keep attacking their defense like tonight and play with the same kind of intensity, we can give ourselves a chance (in Game 6),” Compton said.