Defending champion San Miguel Beermen continue their unstoppable march to the 2017 Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup throne when they try to finish off pesky Barangay Ginebra San Miguel tonight.
Leading the best-of-seven 2017 Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup championship series three victories to one, the Beermen look destined to annex the crown with another victory.
The Beermen moved within a game of annexing their third consecutive Philippine Cup crown when they posted a masterful 94-85 wire-to-wire victory over the same Ginebra squad last Friday, March 3 at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen exploded out of the starting blocks Friday posting an 11-0 run at the outset. The Beermen continued to wax hot from the outside drilling 11 three pointers in the first half alone to hike their advantage to 55-34 at halftime.
The Beermen posted their biggest lead of 26 points, 60-34, early in the third. They then relaxed too soon. Barangay Ginebra chipped away at the San Miguel lead relentlessly to close the gap.
Ginebra came closest when Aljon Mariano picked off a wayward pass intended for an inattentive Arwind Santos. The ball sailed past Santos whose head was turned. Mariano recovered the ball, dribbled the length of the court to score on an unmolested layup to cut the gap to just seven points, 92-85, with 1:17 left to play, as 17,000 fans inside the coliseum roared to their feet.
That was as close as the Gin Kings would get. Time ran out on Ginebra before June Mar Fajardo glided to the hoop on a Euro step to score on a layup to finalize the count, 94-85.
Before the game an emotional Fajardo received his fifth Best Player of the Conference award which tied the record of another San Miguel Beer legend in Danny Ildefonso. Fajardo shared the award with his entire squad as every Beermen in uniform went to the center court to accept the Best Player trophy.
Back in the game Fajardo threw his weight around inside the paint to score 20 points, collect 13 boards, three assists and two blocks in 38 minutes of burn. Marcio Lassiter finished with 20 points.
Chris Ross knocked down five triples to finish with 17 markers (on five-of-nine shooting from three-point distance), nine assists, four boards and one steal in 40 minutes. Not wanting to give every award to Fajardo the broadcast panel gave Ross, instead of Fajardo, the Player of the Game award.
Ginebra big man Joe Devance, limping around the court on a sore foot which needed injections before the game to allow him to play, was the only player who stepped up for the Gin Kings. He finished with 22 points and six rebounds.
LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar each chipped in 12 points. Chris Ellis added 10 markers, all in the first half.
With Fajardo demanding double- and even triple-teams inside the paint, the San Miguel Beer outside shooters were left open around the perimeter. They waxed hot from the outside with 15 triples. In contrast, the Gin Kings were abysmal from three-point distance with 5-of-22 shooting from three-point territory.
The Beermen look to be fully recovered from a disappointing exit in the semifinals of the 2016 PBA Governors Cup where they were eliminated by same Ginebra squad.
Ginebra appeased its legions of hungry fans after it went on to win the crown last conference after beating the Beermen in the semifinals. Ginebra won its first PBA title after eight years of futility.
All that looks to be water under the bridge with the Beermen poised to formalize their rise to the throne of the 2017 PBA Philippine Cup with a victory over Barangay Ginebra today.