San Miguel Beer survived another rally by NorthPort in the fourth quarter to escape with a 90-88 win in their do-or-die quarterfinal match and advance to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Arwind Santos scored five straight points to erase a four-point deficit, import Chris McCullough scored a go-ahead layup and the rest of the Beermen made key stops in the end to beat the Batang Pier by overhauling a twice-to-beat disadvantage.
NorthPort had a chance to tie the game on the final play but rookie Robert Bolick threw a desperate attempt after being trapped near midcourt, triggering celebrations from the SMB faithful.
McCullough had 31 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and four blocks while Santos posted 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Beermen, who will face the winner of the quarterfinal series between Blackwater and Rain or Shine.
The Elite and the Elasto Painters dispute the last semifinals berth in a deciding game of their best-of-three affair Thursday evening at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We’re so lucky to get back at the semifinals because we’re struggling since the start of the Commissioner’s Cup,” said coach Leo Austria. “I think our experience helped us a lot of especially in the last few possessions.”
The Beermen entered the playoffs needing to win twice after finishing seventh in the eliminations with a 5-6 record. But the battle-tested squad forced a decider last Sunday with a 98-84 after holding off a Batang Pier comeback bid.
SMB won it despite losing Marcio Lassiter with 3:22 left in the second quarter when he injured his left knee while challenging Garvo Lanete’s layup.
Lassiter scored 11 points, including back-to-back threes during the first period before going down with an injury.
The Beermen were in command when it led 79-63 on McCullough’s three with under nine minutes left in the fourth.
But the Batang Pier went on a 23-3 run, taking an 86-82 lead after Sean Anthony converted an open three with 1:51 left. Santos, however, answered with a three followed by a layup after Chris Ross stripped a driving Robert Bolick.
Bolick brought NorthPort ahead, 88-87, when he nailed a floater with 31 ticks left but McCullough attacked the lane for a lefty layup off fellow import Prince Ibeh for 89-88 SMB, six seconds later.
The Batang Pier tried to reclaim the driver seat but Mo Tautuaa missed an open three off a kickout by a driving Bolick, setting up a split by McCullough from the charity stripe.
Bolick recovered the ball from Sean Anthony but was trapped by several SMB defenders, forcing to throw a desperate attempt as time expired. (JONAS TERRADO)
SAN MIGUEL 90 — McCullough 31, Lassiter 11, Cabagnot 10, Santos 10, Fajardo 8, Standhardinger 8, Romeo 5, Pessumal 3, Ross 2, Rosser 2.
NORTHPORT 88 — Lanete 22, Tautuaa 20, Ibeh 15, Bolick 13, Anthony 10, Taha 4, Elorde 2, Ferrer 2, Mercado 0, Cruz 0.
Quarters: 21-27; 43-39; 72-62; 90-88.