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PBA: Alaska vs SMB

ARWIND Santos of San Miguel Beer, left, gets a leg up on this rebound play against Rain or Shine’s Wendell McKines in Game 4 of the PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. (Ernie U. Sarmiento)

San Miguel finishes off Rain or Shine in semis, meets the Aces in rematch of the season

Game Tomorrow (Mall of Asia)
7 p.m. – Alaska vs San Miguel (Game 1)

A last waltz for the Alaska Aces and the San Miguel Beermen before midnight strikes on the PBA’s 40th season.

Six months after SMB forward Arwind Santos buried a dagger 3-point shot at the hearts of the Aces in Game 7 of the Philippine Cup Finals, the two marquee teams face off again starting tomorrow in the best-of-7 Governors’ Cup championship.

Game 1 is at 7 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena before the series shifts back to the Smart Araneta Coliseum where the Aces will be looking to avenge that excruciating loss.

Santos’ late-game 3-point shot against Rain or Shine last night keyed SMB’s return to the finals as the Beermen wrapped up the extremely-physical best-of-5 semis, 3-1, at the Big Dome.

In winning Game 4, behind the 37 points of Arizona Reid and the 27 of Junemar Fajardo, SMB averted another Game 2 collapse, where the Beermen blew a 20-point lead, and a potentially disastrous Game 5.

A 19-point advantage in the fourth quarter dissolved to within 108-104 on a Jeff Chan triple, but Reid, Santos and Alex Cabagnot kept the Beermen together this time.

“The boys kept their composure,” said SMB coach Leo Austria. “They didn’t want to lose and go to a fifth game.”

A 13-0 run in the first quarter and a buzzer-beater 3-shot by Marcio Lassiter to end the half highlighted SMB spirited run in the first 24 minutes, 64-50.

Arizona Reid poured 18 points on an array of shots, from triples to fall-away jumpers, while Lassiter had 12 and Arwind Santos and Junemar Fajardo 10 each before the 6-foot-10 Fajardo limped to the bench after a collision with ROS forward JR Quinahan, 3:57 remaining in the second quarter.

Quinahan broke up a transition play and left Fajardo curled up on the floor clutching his right knee as SMB governor Robert Non walked across the court to attend to the fallen big man. Fajardo spend the rest of the half on the bench with his padded knee on ice.

The first six minutes of the game was waged on even terms, with both teams draining three triples each. But at 18-16 after Jeff Chan, the hero of Game 2, hit a long jumper to give ROS a 2-point lead, the Elasto Painters suddenly turned cold.

With passive Wendell Mickines scoreless at that point before stirring to life and scoring 12 in the second quarter, the E-Painters groped for answers against Reid, Santos and the 59-percent shooting Beermen but found none.

In a flash, SMB dropped 13 straight points – 4 from Fajardo and 3-pointers each by Lassiter and Reid – as ROS, 7 of 19 in the first 12 minutes, went 0 of 7 from the field with 2 turnovers during that pivotal stretch.

Beau Belga returned after sitting out Games 2 and 3 with a severe ankle sprain and labored to put a wide body on the low-posting Fajardo. He had some success at the block but fell short when the SMB center spun away for his favorite 12-foot fade-away.

Belga also struggled to keep up with the smaller but mobile Gabby Espinas who scored six straight points at the start of the second quarter, giving SMB a 37-23 spread and sending ROS coach Yeng Guiao into a fit.

Lassiter had another moment to remember.

Four days after torching ROS on 10 of 13 shooting from 3-point range in a Game 2 heartbreaker, Lassiter sought to ignite the offense once more but could only go 1of 3 from beyond the arc – until the dying seconds of the half.

After Chan clanked a fast break layup with 4 seconds left, Lassiter charged up the court with his eyes on the clock, rising as he crossed the mid-court line and swishing in the 3-pointer he had been looking for.

SAN MIGUEL 117 – Reid 38, Fajardo 27, Santos 15, Lassiter 12, Cabagnot 11, Espinas 6, Ross 5, Lutz 3, Tubid 0.

RAIN OR SHINE 110 – McKines 25, Chan 21, Norwood 15, Lee 13, Almazan 9, Quinahan 8, Cruz Jericho 7, Tiu 5, Arana 4, Ibanes 2, Belga 1, Uyloan 0.

Quarters: 31-20, 64-50, 93-74, 117-110