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PBA: Beermen make it

SMB's Alex Cabagnot loses the ball against the Meralco Bolt's defense in their knock-out match June 29, 2015 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Photo by Ernie U. Sarmiento

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

Game Thursday
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs San Miguel

San Miguel Beer made sure that there would be no collapse this time.

Denied of their first chance the last time out, the Beermen foiled the upset bid of the gritty Meralco Bolts, 102-86, last night to secure a semifinals berth in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

SMB drew major contributions from top guns Arizona Reid, June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter to arrange a best-of-five semifinal showdown with Rain or Shine which starts on Thursday.

Beermen Coach Leo Austria breathed a sigh of relief after they were pushed to a rubber match by the Bolts following Saturday’s 106-99 decision.

The loss revived bitter memories of last season’s Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals when SMB blew a twice-to-beat advantage against Air21.

“Playing game 2, with a twice-to-beat advantage, they (Meralco) put us in a scary situation,” said Austria. “I told my team that this is very disciplined and organized team.”

Reid finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds, Fajardo had 22 points and 16 rebounds while Lassiter contributed 17 points and was a huge spark in the fourth quarter that saw San Miguel pulling away.

The Beermen were holding a slim 73-69 lead with 10 minutes to play when Lassister converted back-to-back triples to ignite a 26-9 run to virtually settle the outcome.

“I am happy to see the players responding sa hinihingi ng fans that we get back in this game. Pinanindigan nila yung sinasabi nila na ‘coach we will win’, sinabi nila na ‘kami bahala dito, magpapakamatay kami dito’,” said Austria.

That blitz enabled SMB to take a 99-81 with little over a minute remaining, setting the stage for Reid to face his former team Rain or Shine in the playoffs for the first time.

It would be recalled that Reid played three seasons for ROS in 2011, 2013 and 2014, winning the Best Import award twice. But the Painters opted not to retain the dreadlocks-wearing Reid, enabling the Beermen to sign him as early as last conference.

Rain or Shine enters the series with plenty of rest, having dispatched Barako Bull in double overtime, 134-132, on Paul Lee’s game-winner last Saturday.

Meralco fell short in its quest to reach the semis for the second straight conference. The Bolts had rallied from a 12-point deficit to pull within 64-63 on a layup by Jared Dillinger late in the third.

But the Bolts failed to sustain the momentum, enabling the Beermen to progress.

“We have everything to lose against Meralco because they’re the No. 7 and we are the No. 2 seed. I asked the players to give their effort and focus,” said Austria, whose team failed to make the playoffs in the Commissioner’s Cup.

The Bolts got 28 points and 12 rebounds from import Andre Emmett, but he got little help from the locals as Reynel Hugnatan and Gary David were the only double-digit scorers with 17 and 16 points, respectively.

Meanwhile, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Coach Frankie Lim was asked by Commissioner Chito Salud to appear at the PBA Commissioner’s Office today to explain his involvement in a scuffle that broke out in Friday’s quarterfinal match against Alaska.

Lim received a technical foul when he appeared to have nudged Alaska’s Calvin Abueva during the commotion that occurred in the second half of the game won by the Aces, 114-108.

The loss capped off another fruitless season for the Kings, who failed to make the semis in each of the three conferences this season.

SAN MIGUEL 102 – Reid 29, Fajardo 22, Lassiter 17, Santos 15, Tubid 8, Espinas 5, Lutz 2, Cabagnot 2, Ross 2.

MERALCO 86 – Emmett 28, Hugnatan 17, David 16, Cortez 7, Dillinger 5, Nabong 5, Hodge 5, Anthony 3, Ando 0, Atkins 0, Guevarra 0.

Quarters: 30-18; 49-42; 67-65; 102-86.