San Miguel clinches finals spot at Phoenix's expense

Chris Ross came out smoking in the clincher. Dennis Acosta
By Xy-Zha Cabanlong

PASAY--The San Miguel Beermen were relentless in clinching a spot in the PBA Philippine Cup finals as they defeated Phoenix Fuel Masters, 105-94, in Game 5 of the semifinals at the Cuneta Astrodome, Thursday night.

Chris Ross exploding in the entire game as well as the impressive outside scoring of the Beermen had been the dagger that killed the hopes of the Fuel Masters to make their first ever finals appearance.

"We lost to a really defending champion team and we respect that. Talagang they deserve to be in the finals again. For us, lesson learned kasi this was our first time na naglaro sa semifinals," Coach Louie Alas of Phoenix Fuel Masters said after the game.

In the first half alone, outside shots were working wonders for the Beermen, with the likes of Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, Von Pessumal and Terrence Romeo all firing from beyond the rainbow line.

It is only in the first quarter that Lassiter was seen in action.

"As much as possible, we don't want to use him [Lassiter] because he's not really 100% but he's preparing for the finals. I gave him a few minutes [to play] just to feel the pressure of the game. Hopefully he'll be okay in the finals," explained San Miguel coach Leo Austria on Lassiter's health.

The second half opened with Calvin Abueva being called for a technical foul with 8:27 remaining in the 3rd period.

Towards the end of the quarter, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser also picked up his share of a technical infraction.

Christian Standhardinger opened the final quarter with a technical foul for using profane language against the referee as he contested a call.

In spite the infractions against them, San Miguel remained resilient, holding on to their lead which was as high as 25 points.

However, they were not prepared of the rally that Phoenix ran beginning at the 8:39 mark of the final frame, when JC Intal found an opening and took his chance to steal the ball that eventually landed in the hands of Justin Chua to score a quick 2 points to push Phoenix close to San Miguel; 89-78.

LA Revilla's triple with over 4 minutes left to play in the final canto pushed the Fuel Masters a little more closer, cutting the lead to only 8 points.

This inspired Phoenix to press the Beermen and hinder their scoring, paving way for Matt Wright to score a field goal to further cut the lead down to 6 points.

A foul against the Beermen sent RI Jazul to the free throw line and cuts the lead down to only 4 points with only 2:48 left in the game.

"When we were down by 25, we could have easily folded but until to the last second, we kept on fighting. That's why even the management is very thankful kasi yun daw ang gusto nila makita sa Phoenix, na talagang hindi nag-sstop."

However, Phoenix's late rally was not enough to threaten the heart of the Beermen.

Terrence Romeo's field goal with 1:08 left in the game allowed his team to lead by 6 points again.

Phoenix suffered a huge blow at the 42-second mark of the game as Calvin Abueva was sent off the game, after he was called for a Flagrant Foul Penalty 1.

Alex Cabagnot's free throw with only 28.6 left in the game had sealed off San Miguel's run to make their 5th finals appearance.

At the post-game interviews, the coaches had nothing but good words to say about facing each other.

"Credit to Phoenix in this series, they pushed us to the limit and we loved it. They played really well from the start of the conference and helped us bring out our best in this semifinals series," said Austria.

"San Miguel is a very, very strong team. Ang hirap talunin nyan," said Alas.

San Miguel will have the luxury of having a long break prior to the start of the finals as the series between Rain or Shine and Magnolia has yet to wrap up, something that Austria thinks is an opportune time for his wards to get at least 2-3 days of well-deserved break.

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