|Chris McCullough led the Beermen to deprive the NorthPort Batang Pier of their hopes in making it to the Commissioner's Cup semifinals. PBA Images|
By Xy-Zha Cabanlong
QUEZON CITY - The San Miguel Beermen became the second team to book a ticket to the PBA Commissioner's Cup semifinals as they handed a 90-88 upset against the NorthPort Batang Pier, Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The #7 seeded Beermen succeeded in beating the #2 seeded Batang Pier in the quarterfinals.
It was an early run made by the Batang Pier at the opening quarter, leaving the Beermen scoreless for about a minute and a half in the game until Alex Cabagnot found his way to the basket to challenge NorthPort who is leading by 2; 4-2.
The Beermen took over the driver's seat and lead by as much as 7 points in the quarter but Garvo Lanete, who scored 7 points off a free throw and two triples gave the lead back to NorthPort; 20-17.
Lanete closed out the quarter with another triple to make it a 6-point advantage for NorthPort; 27-21.
Christian Standhardinger opened the scoring for the Beermen at the start of the second quarter, cutting the lead to 4; 23-27
San Miguel eventually were able to snatch the lead away from NorthPort through a jump shot made by Cabagnot; 34-33 with 5:12 to play in the quarter. Marcio Lassiter extended the lead to 4; 37-33 with his 3-pointer, before he got subbed out due to injury, with over three minutes left before halftime.
Quarter ended with NorthPort trailing by 4 points; 43-39, after Paolo Taha scored a lay-up with 1:05 left to play. San Miguel surged in the second quarter with them outscoring NorthPort; 22-12.
At the third quarter, Lassiter's absence did not matter for San Miguel as the Beermen continue to edge out the fighting Batang Pier side who were able to score an early basket at the start of the quarter through Nico Elorde's lay-up; 41-43.
San Miguel, however was able to keep the momentum on their side, taking the ball game to a 10-point lead at the end of the quarter; 72-62 through back to back triples made by Terrence Romeo, Von Pessumal and Arwind Santos.
Chris McCullough poured in 12 points in the third quarter alone to lead the Beermen to such advantage.
At the fourth quarter, NorthPort made a 6-0 run that paved way for the Batang Pier side to trim down the lead to only a point; 79-78 with 4:10 left to play.
The run began with a massive three-pointer hit by Sean Anthony that allowed his teammates to continue surging, realizing that there is no tomorrow if they lose the ball game.
Prince Ibeh was also able to convert important free throws for NorthPort with 2:43 left to play as he was fouled by June Mar Fajardo. Ibeh's foul shots cuts San Miguel's lead to a point; 82-81.
Robert Bolick's free throw off a foul by McCullough gave the lead back to NorthPort; 82-83 with 2:12 left in the game. Anthony again scored a triple to push the Batang Pier to a 4-point advantage; 86-82.
However, Santos proved that it is not time for the Batang Pier to celebrate their advantage as he was able to 5 quick points to give the lead back to the Beermen; 87-86.
Bolick showed no fear against the Beermen and continued on making efforts to score for NorthPort despite the fact that time is not on their side. He was able to score one last basket for the Batang Pier to take the game to a 88-87 lead with only 33 seconds left in the game.
No lead was safe as McCullough muscled through a lay-up to give the 1-point advantage back to the Beermen; 89-88.
Mo Tautuaa attempted to score from the outside and missed, then Lanete fouls McCullough to stop the time.
McCullough converted a foul shot out of 2 to make it a one-possession ball game trail for NorthPort with 11 seconds left to play.
Bolick tried to score from beyond the arc but missed on the target, sending the Beermen to the semis at the sound of the quarter buzzer.
"We did out best, sakit e! I really thought we had that game. It was an open shot, we just didn't make a basket when it mattered most and they made it. It's part of the game, as long as we gave them a heck of a ballgame I think, they [San Miguel] respect us more now. We didn't give up but ganun talaga, good luck na lang next conference," says Robert Bolick at the end of the ball game.
Speaking in behalf of the Beermen, Coach Leo Austria mentioned that they are happy to be in the semifinals after all the struggles that they have to go through the rest of the conference.
"After the first game, I thought that it is too easy to beat NorthPort, but I have to give credit to their coaching staff because they prepared really hard and they have a good plan coming into this game. We are so lucky to be back in the semifinals because we have been struggling since the start of this conference and we're so happy we made it in the semis," says Coach Leo Austria.
The Beermen would have to wait for the result of the do-or-die game between Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and Blackwater Elite, Thursday night, to know who they are playing against in the semifinals.
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