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PBA: San Miguel shoots for 3-1 lead

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Coach Cone, Ross in verbal spat after Game 3.

Fajardo remains Ginebra’s biggest problem.

Hanapin ko kung sino libre – June Mar.

Game Today
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Ginebra

Series Summary:
Game 1 – San Miguel 109, Ginebra 82
Game 2 – Ginebra 124, San Miguel 118, OT
Game 3 – San Miguel 99, Ginebra 88
(San Miguel leads series 2-1)

The San Miguel Beermen, seeking a commanding 3-1 lead, and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel try to keep their emotions check as they clash again tonight in Game 4 of their best-of-seven series for the PBA Philippine Cup crown at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

A verbal dust-up between San Miguel guard Chris Ross and Ginebra coach Tim Cone marred the end of the Beermen’s 99-88 victory last Wednesday that put the defending champions up 2-1 and halfway into completing a Philippine Cup three-peat.

Cone wouldn’t comment on the incident, which stemmed over Ross’ decision to hit a three-point shot with seconds remaining and the outcome well at hand. Ross, for his part, insisted that he had no intention of rubbing salt into Ginebra’s wound.

“There’s a shot clock, and they’re playing defense on me, so I took the shot, it’s basketball. I don’t think I did anything wrong,” said Ross, who led all scorers with 24 points.

Cone, understandably, doesn’t let such things go away easily, as history would tell.

As Alaska coach, Cone confronted Kelly Williams and later Sta. Lucia counterpart Boyet Fernandez after Game 2 of their 2008 Philippine Cup semis series after Williams scored a breakaway dunk in the final seconds. The two sides would eventually patch things up.

Regardless if the two teams can move on from the Ross-Cone incident, the series is expected to reach fever pitch, especially with the Beermen aiming to draw one step closer towards completing a historic achievement in the PBA’s most important championship, and Ginebra looking to tie it up at 2-2 and turn the series into a best-of-three.

“A lot of things could happen next game,” said Beermen mentor Leo Austria. “They cannot afford to give us another win. Although there’s a possibly makarecover ka, but 3-1, talagang you’re in a deep hole na, especially against us.

We experienced that before, and we don’t want that to happen to us.”

“We’ll just keep plugging away and hopefully win Game 4,” Cone said. “It’s almost a must-win for us. You don’t come back from a 3-1 deficit very often. It’s a must-win.”

Ginebra had no answers for for the return to form of San Miguel’s prized big man June Mar Fajardo, who scored 17 points and grabbed 18 rebounds. He avoided foul trouble this time and overcame a plethora of Ginebra defenders and uneasiness with his size 17 Nike LeBron Soldier X shoes (he switched back to his regular Under Armour sneakers in the second half) to play a key role in the victory.

His three-point play with 3:36 remaining gave the Beermen the lead for good, 90-88, even as Ginebra failed to hit its last seven shots.

“We like to pride ourselves on down the stretch basketball and we didn’t do anything that we normally do down the stretch. They just beat us up down the stretch,” Cone said. “They hit shots and they got the ball to June Mar, and June Mar made the right passes and we came down the floor and took tough shots. We didn’t go into our offense… and kind of play hero basketball down the stretch.”

Fajardo, who is expected to receive his fifth Best Player of the Conference award before tipoff, is bracing for another tough resolve from Ginebra and hopefully can capitalize again on San Miguel’s shooting by finding the likes of Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, Ross and Arwind Santos in the perimeter.

“Yun yung gameplan nila, pero ok lang. Hanapin ko lang kung sinu yung bakante, mga teammates ko,” he said. “Credit din sa kanila dahil hinahanap nila ako sa poste, pag kickout ko, nasushoot nila yung mga tira. Tapos sinesetup namin yung opensa, di kami nagmamadali, so sana magtuloy-tuloy.”

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