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PBA: SMB lives another day

Alaska's Vic Manuel holds on to the ball after a rebound play against SMB's Ronald Tubid and Arwind Santos in Game 2 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals, January 19, 2016 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Alaska won 83-80. Photo by Ernie U. Sarmiento

Game Wednesday (Smart Araneta)
7 p.m. – Alaska vs San Miguel (Game 5)

The balloons are on their way to the Smart Araneta Coliseum where the San Miguel Beermen will continue to tempt fate and hope to rewrite history.

Facing the prospect of getting shut out in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup Finals, San Miguel fought from the grave onto overtime last night to deny the Alaska Aces a sweep, 110-104, and extend the best-of-7 series to a Game 5 on Wednesday.

Alaska still leads the series, 3-1, but the new lease on life has given SMB something to looking forward to after three tough losses against an opponent aching for revenge and redemption and with their No 1. player still out of commission with a knee injury.

June Mar Fajardo, named Best Player of the Conference of the PH Cup for three seasons running, sat out the fourth straight game of the series but was among those celebrating and pointing to the catwalk when the final buzzer sounded.

Multi-colored victory balloons were tethered on the Philsports Arena ceiling waiting to fall but hardly got the chance to as the Beermen refused to join five other PBA ballclubs that got swept in the finals, either in a five-game affair or a seven-game showdown.

Marcio Lassiter led SMB with 26 points and Gabby Espinas had 21 before fouling out in the extra period. But it was Chris Ross who breathed life into the gasping Beermen as he twice defied the Aces defense with consecutive drives before Alex Cabagnot, 1 of 8 from 3-point range in regulation, drained the biggest triple of the evening with 1:52 left in OT to make it 105-102.

Ross then ignored two open teammates and located an ice-cold Yancy de Ocampo, sent in for the fouled-out Espinas, for a shot clock-beating 15-foot jumper that took the fight out of the Aces, who forced the five-minute extension after Cyrus Baguio nailed a 3-pointer just before the buzzer, 98-all.

Heroes came and went in the nerve-wracking Game 4.

Arwind Santos, who exactly a year ago buried a dagger at the hearts of the Aces in Game 7 of the finals of this same conference, did it again last night, tipping in his own miss with 28 seconds left in regulation to put SMB ahead, 94-93.

Ronald Tubid then hit two free throws after Jvee Casio touched the ball last in the ensuing play, making it 96-93 and igniting the Beermen bench.

Shocked beyond disbelief at the sudden turn of events, the Aces then turned to Baguio who bailed them out with a 3-pointer to send the game into OT.

Alaska went scoreless in the last 3:30 of regulation after Casio gave them an 11-point lead, with Baguio breaking the ice with no time left.

The Aces blew an 11-point first quarter lead but hung on behind Jvee Casio’s seven straight points in the closing minutes of the second period to come out of the half with a 49-43 advantage.

SAN MIGUEL 110 – Lassiter 26, Espinas 21, Cabagnot 16, Ross 11, Santos 11, Tubid 8, De Ocampo 6, Lutz 4, Reyes 4, Heruela 3, Arana 0, Omolon 0, Semerad 0.

ALASKA 104 – Manuel 20, Abueva 14, Hontiveros 14, Casio 13, Banchero 12, Baguio 11, Thoss 9, Exciminiano 5, Jazul 4, Baclao 2, Dela Rosa 0, Menk 0.

Quarters: 20-28, 43-49, 69-77, 98-98, 110-104