San Miguel hangs tough to score squeaker over Star, evens up series, 1-1

Charles Rhodes powered his way through traffic to score a deuce as San Miguel withstood Star's push to tie the series at 1-apiece.
By: Patrick Sutare

MANILA—San Miguel avoided being at the brink of elimination after surviving a huge second half siege from Star in Game Two of their Semifinal clash in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Monday night at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

Playing with a much bigger sense of urgency, the Beermen were able to outlast the Hotshots, 77-76, to put the series back to square one and make it a virtual best-of-three affair.

The higher-seeded SMB squad actually squandered a double-digit edge in the first half before picking up the pieces in the clutch to withstand a gallant effort from the hot-streaking Star.

Instigating a high octane type of offensive attack, the Beermen quickly gained a headstart which had them leading by a substantial margin at halftime, 44-30.

But Star sparked a major uprising in the third canto to cruise control, 60-58, outscoring the Beermen by 16, 30-14, in the period alone.

Both squads then battled tooth and nail in the payoff period. 

Shortly after regaining the driver’s seat, the Beermen hit the snooze bar on defense as the Hotshots launched another foray midway the final quarter. Justin Melton buried a wide open triple at the 5:40 mark to give the lead back to the white shirts, 72-70.

With exactly three minutes left to play, SMB was back ahead by three, 77-74, with the latest basket coming off a long range bomb from Arwind Santos.

Both troupes then clamped down on their respective defensive sets, not allowing a basket to be scored in the next two minutes.

With a less than a minute left, Mark Barroca stopped the bleeding after seeing a gap in the lane which he then attacked for a three-point play opportunity.

The Star guard, however, botched the bonus free throw as the Hotshots remained down albeit just by a precarious point, 77-76.

In the next play, Barroca quickly atoned for his missed freebie, intercepting an errant cross-court pass from JuneMar Fajardo to give Star the chance to steal the game.

But Paul Lee misfired the potential game-winning shot as the clock expired.

The loss snapped Star’s eight-game winning run dating back to the eliminations, and dealt import Ricardo Ratliffe his first defeat since returning to the Hotshots’ camp. 

The workhorse reinforcement produced another masterpiece in a losing effort, going for 25 points and a jaw-dropping 35 collared boards, 21 of which came just in the first half. Jio Jalalon scattered 18 points which also went for naught.

Lee, meanwhile, was visibly a non-factor in the game. The usual go-to scorer struggled with just three points while shooting on a dismal clip from the field in almost 30 minutes of play.

Charles Rhodes peaked just right in time for San Miguel, chalking up 21 points and 10 rebounds with most of the damage dropped during the course of winning time. Alex Cabagnot chipped in 13 markers, seven caroms and three assists while Fajardo contributed 12 points, nine boards, and two assists. 

Game Three is scheduled on Wednesday, June 14, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

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