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SMB rallies in 2nd half to go 2-0 up vs Alaska

Renaldo Balkman paced the Beermen anew. PBA Media Bureau
By Dugout Philippines

QUEZON CITY--Ranged against a still crippled but resolute Alaska Milk side, titleholder San Miguel Beer came from behind to score a 105-94 victory and move on the brink of the PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Monday.

Big men Renaldo Balkman and June Mar Fajardo and the backcourt pair of Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross delivered the goods as they foiled the Aces' determined bid to force a 1-1 tie in their best-of-five semi-finals.

With a repeat of their 92-79 win Saturday, the Beermen have now three shots at the best-of-seven finals against the winner of the Barangay Ginebra-Rain or Shine semis matchup.

June Mar Fajardo and his teammates take their first shot at the finale at 7 p.m.Wednesday, also at the Big Dome.

"I have to commend their coaching staff. They did a good job for us to exert extra effort to overcome what they're doing in this game," said SMB coach Leo Austria.

The Beermen stared at a 16-point deficit at one point in the second period and needed to mount a rally to score what's actually a sixth straight win in playoff matches versus the Aces.

"Credit sa mga teammates ko, nawala ako sa focus sa first half at tinulungan nila ako maka-recover sa second half," said Fajardo. "Importante na nakuha namin ito. Magbabago ang tema ng series, kung nakuha nila ito."

Somehow humbled by Diamon Simpson's 31-point and 24-rebound showing in Game One, Fajardo and Balkman both churned out solid double-double games, leading SMB's decisive second-half.

Balkman piled up 31 points and 10 rebounds while Fajardo logged in 21 markers and 18 boards.

Ross contributed 16 points in a rebound from a mere three-point game the last time while Cabagnot came up with 14 markers, nine assists, four steals and three rebounds as they also played stellar roles in overcoming the Aces' tough stand.

Even on the continued absence of Calvin Abueva and Chris Banchero, the Aces waged a tremendous fight at the start, knowing well how tough to recover from a 0-2 hole in a race-to-three-games series.

They set the pace through the first half, establishing a 16-point spread at 41-25 before settling for a 52-42 cushion at halftime.

The Beermen, however, stayed calm and stuck with their game plan.

As Balkman and Fajardo pressed their attack, the Beermen eventually surged ahead at 69-66 midway through the third.

The Aces fought hard to stay in the battle but eventually lost steam and firepower in the homestretch.

Arwind Santos nailed a trey to cap a decisive 12-5 as the Beermen eventually put the game away, 102-92, entering the final minute of the game.

The scores:

San Miguel 105 - Balkman 31, Fajardo 21, Ross 16, Cabagnot 14, Lassiter 8, Santos 5, Nabong 5, Heruela 3, Standhardinger 2.

Alaska 94 - Simpson 19, Enciso 19, Manuel 15, Teng 13, Casio 12, Thoss 6, Cruz 5, Galliguez 3, Racal 2, Exciminiano 0, Baclao 0.

Quarters: 18-29, 41-52, 79-74, 105-94.

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