MANILA, Philippines – San Miguel will not make the same mistake twice against Meralco, especially with a PBA Philippine Cup finals berth on the line.
The Beermen mounted a huge lead and denied all of the Bolts’ comeback to secure their place in the finals following a wire-to-wire 100-89 win in their do-or-die Game 7 at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday, August 17.
June Mar Fajardo frolicked inside the paint with 29 points and 14 rebounds as San Miguel redeemed itself from its collapse in Game 6, where it wasted a 10-point lead in the last four minutes, allowing Meralco to extend the best-of-seven semifinals to the distance.
This time, the Beermen rode on a blazing 20-6 start behind the early explosion of Marcio Lassiter and never looked back, with its lead swelling to as big as 23 points in the fourth quarter.
Lassiter scored 9 points – all from beyond the arc – during that stretch and finished with 16 points, while CJ Perez chalked up 18 points, 9 assists, 5 steals, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks as San Miguel arranged a title duel with TNT.
It will be the first finals appearance for the Beermen since the 2019 Commissioners Cup, where they beat – coincidentally – the Tropang Giga in six games for the crown.
Cliff Hodge showed the way for Meralco with 23 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists, but the Bolts ran out of time in their fourth-quarter comeback as an All-Filipino finals appearance remained elusive for the franchise.
Down 60-81, Meralco uncorked a 10-0 run to move within striking distance and even cut its deficit to single digits, 87-96, only to see Fajardo seal the win for San Miguel with a short stab in the final 40 seconds.
“This series gave us some character. This is the time to develop the character of our players who came from other teams,” said Beermen head coach Leo Austria, referring to San Miguel additions Jericho Cruz and Vic Manuel, among others.
Manuel added 13 points and 3 rebounds, while Cruz chimed in 12 points and 5 assists.
Chris Newsome backstopped Hodge in scoring with 14 points on top of 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals as Aaron Black put up 13 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists in the loss.
Game 1 of the best-of-seven finals will be held on Sunday, August 21, at the same venue.
San Miguel 100 – Fajardo 29, Perez 18, Lassiter 16, Manuel 13, Cruz 12, Tautuaa 7, Enciso 5, Brondial 0.
Meralco 89 – Hodge 23, Newsome 14, Black 13, Almazan 12, Banchero 8, Hugnatan 8, Quinto 7, Maliksi 4, Pasaol 0, Jose 0, Pascual 0.
Quarters: 26-12, 45-31, 73-54, 100-89.