MANILA, Philippines – Not even a 16-point deficit could prevent San Miguel from inching closer to the 2018 PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals.
The Beermen withstood the pesky Alaska Aces with a furious second-half assault, 105-94, to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their best-of-5 semifinals series at the Araneta Coliseum on Monday, July 16.
Limited to 8 points in the first two quarters, Renaldo Balkman scattered 23 of his 31 points in the second half as defending champion San Miguel moved one win away from the finals.
San Miguel trailed 41-51 after the first half before outscoring the Aces, 38-22, in the 3rd quarter. Balkman and Chris Ross combined for 25 points to turn the tables and head into the final frame with a 79-74 advantage.
Alaska kept it close in the 4th quarter, 87-88, but the Beermen erected a 9-0 run, highlighted by a June Mar Fajardo 3-point play, to secure the victory.
Fajardo frolicked in the paint with 21 points, 18 rebounds, and two steals. Ross also chipped in 16 points and 4 assists, while Alex Cabagnot churned out 14 points, 8 assists, 4 steals, and 3 assists in the win.
The Aces were groomed to equalize the series as they led 41-25 in the second quarter, only to witness the mighty Beermen showcase why they won 6 of the last 10 PBA championships.
Diamon Simpson chalked up 19 points, 15 rebounds, 6 blocks, 3 steals, and two assists, but those were not enough to keep Alaska, which is still missing key cog Chris Banchero and Calvin Abueva, afloat.
Simon Enciso fired 19 points with 6 assists, Vic Manuel had 15 points and 5 rebounds, while Jeron Teng added 13 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds, and 3 steals in the losing effort.
Game 3 is on Wednesday, July 18, at the same venue.
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
Quarter scores: 18-29, 41-52, 79-74, 105-94