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SMB bounces back, ties finals series vs gritty Magnolia

Matt Rosser soars for the dunk. Rick Dela Cruz
By Dugout Philippines

PASAY--San Miguel Beer played heads-up game from start to finish Sunday night, and came back hard at Magnolia, 92-77, in Game Two of their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven championship showdown at the MOA Arena.

There's simply no stopping the Beermen this time after they yielded Game One, 103-105, on an endgame meltdown.

With their offense spread out to a more number of players, the Beermen proved more lethal, fashioning out a convincing victory to pull even at 1-1 before the league takes a breather in observance of the Lenten season.

The series resumes on Easter Sunday back at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Arwind Santos best typified the determination showed in Game Two, draining a career-best six three-pointers to highlight a 24-point game also marked by eight rebounds, two blocks and one assist.

"Kami may hawak ng korona. Ipinakita lang namin kung ano ang dapat ipakita ng may hawak ng korona na inaagawan nito," said Santos.

Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot also Chris Ross rose to the occasion with Magnolia literally ganging up on June Mar Fajardo.

Lassiter fired four three-pointers and finished with 16 markers, Cabagnot piled up 15 points, eight assists and five rebounds while Ross turned in 10 dish-offs, five points, four rebounds and two steals.

"We learned our lesson from the last game. Disappointed and frustrated kami the last time, nakanti ang pride," said SMB coach Leo Austria.

"We're happy to tie the series. Mahirap kung 0-2 down kami going to the Holy Week break. Instead, it's 1-1 and we'll reflect during the break. We'll try to find the best way to make it two in a row," Austria also said.

With tremendous resolve, the Beermen led by as many as 21 at 71-50 and came through with the needed finishing kick that they were not able to dish out the last time.

The Hotshots did wage a fightback but couldn't get closer than seven, 68-75.

From that count, Santos, Fajardo, Ross and Lassiter teamed up in a 10-to-nothing run as the Beermen broke the game open again at 85-68.

"Credit to San Miguel, mas preparado sila. Mas gusto nilang manalo ngayon," said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero.

Lassiter, Santos and Brian Heruela carried the cudgels with their combined output of 35 points as the Beermen overcame the Hotshots' clampdown defense on Fajardo and took the half at 48-35.

Heruela had a perfect nine-minute first-half stint, going 3-of-3 from the field and 1-of-1 from the stripe. He made a tough off-balanced basket off Jio Jalalon at the buzzer as the Beermen brought a 13-point spread over into the second half.

The Beermen feasted from the outside as the Hotshots clogged the middle, limiting Fajardo to two points on 1-of-3 clip in the first 24 minutes of play.

Though effectively clipped, Fajardo still ended up with double-double numbers with 13 rebounds and 12 points.

The scores:

SAN MIGUEL 92 - Santos 24, Lassiter 16, Cabagnot 15, Fajardo 12, Heruela 10, Ganuelas-Rosser 6, Ross 5, Mamaril 4, De Ocampo 0, Vigil 0.

MAGNOLIA 77 - Barroca 18, Lee 13, Sangalang 11, Ramos 7, Dela Rosa 7, Jalalon 6, Reavis 4, Pascual 4, Brondial 3, Simon 2, Herndon 2, Mendoza 0.

Quarters: 19-17, 48-35, 75-57, 92-77.

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