By Ricky Manliguis
MANILA—San Miguel moved a win away from clinching its historic fourth PBA Philippine Cup title, but had to survive a near-meltdown in the fourth quarter en route to an 84-80 Game 4 win over Magnolia Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
The Beermen nearly lost its seven-point lead in the final four minutes of the game as Ian Sangalang and the rest of the Pambansang Manok reatalited with five straight points to cut the deficit to just a basket, 80-82, with 1:12 left.
But Mark Barroca turned the ball over in the next Magnolia possession, before Arwind Santos calmly sank two free throws to settle the low-scoring affair for SMB.
Alex Cabagnot topscored for the Beermen with 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting along with two assists, a steal, and a rebound in 35 minutes of action, while Marcio Lassiter chipped in 18 markers with four boards and two steals.
Newly-minted Best Player of the Conference June Mar Fajardo had another double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds, even as Santos had 13.
"We all know that this game is a do-or-die for Magnolia, credit to their coaching staff, they were able to come up with a good game plan, especially on defense. They shackled us," said SMB mentor Leo Austria.
"Defensively, I think we were able to stop them also from scoring a lot. We gave up only 87 last game and now 80. I credit their defense. They were able to limit our offense, but these players have the heart of champions. They know how to lose, they know how to win. They came out as winners.” Austria said.
Sangalang made up for his dismal showing in Game 3 on Easter Sunday, spearheading Magnolia with 22 points, missing just nine of his 19 attempts from the field, while pulling down 11 rebounds and three blocks.
Rome Dela Rosa added 15, while Barroca had 14 for the Hotshots, who will try to keep its hopes alive in Game 5 on Friday.
San Miguel 84 – Cabagnot 27, Lassiter 18, Fajardo 16, Santos 13, Ganuelas-Rosser 5, Ross 4, Espinas 1, Heruela 0, Pessumal 0
Magnolia 80 – Sangalang 22, Dela Rosa 15, Barroca 14, Lee 9, Reavis 6, Simon 5, Jalalon 4, Ramos 3, Pascual 2, Gamalinda 0
Quarterscores: 14-20; 45-46; 69-64; 84-80