Beermen get back on TNT, tie series to 2 apiece

Defending champions San Miguel finally showed up the dominant self they were as they thumped the TNT Katropa, 97-86, in Game Four of their best-of-seven semifinals to knot the series at 2-2 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, Tuesday night.

After struggling to get past TNT in their last two games, the top-seeded Beermen managed to sustain the heat of their earlyoffense this time, consistently putting douse ofcold water on the Katropa’s attempted rallies to avoid falling into a 1-3 deficit.

Chris Ross had his breakout performance of the series, finishing with career-high 31 points, built with five triples, five rebounds, and five assists to lead San Miguel’s offensive onslaught.

June Mar Fajardo added 15 points, 15 rebounds, and four blocks, while Marcio Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot each scored 12 points to help the Beermen got back in the series.

San Miguel will try to move a step closer to their third straight All-Filipino Cup Finals appearance when they play TNT in Game Five on Thursday.

“I have to commend my players dahil nagkaroon sila ng sense of urgency,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria. “Alam nila ang sitwasyon namin, especially Chris Ross. He was really focused.”

The Beermen, which created history last season by becoming the first team to rally from 0-3 down and win the series, did not allow history to repeatas they held their ground against the tough Katropa behind afinishing 13-5 run in the first half.

Leading by just four, 31-27, with five minutes left in the first half, San Miguel suddenly turned things around and rode Ross, Lassiter, and Cabagnot baskets to build a 44-32 halftime lead.

The Beermen kept the momentum and quickly dropped an 18-8 bomb in the first five minutes of the third as the lead ballooned to 62-40.

With some sense of urgency, rookie RR Pogoy attempted to lead a TNT’s last-minute comeback, scoring seven straight points under three minutes remaining that trimmed the Beermen’s lead to just 93-84.

But then, Arwind Santos proved it was too little too late as he put the final nail in the coffin with a jump shot off Lassiter’s assist.

Larry Fonacier led TNT with team-high 15 points, while Jayson Castro and Mo Tautuaa had 13 and 12, respectively.

Gabby Espinas scored 10 points in 18 minutes off the bench for San Miguel. –Julian Rikki Reyes