San Miguel staved off Meralco, 96-91, to take a 2-1 lead in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals, Sunday night at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
CJ Perez finished with a game-high 26 points, while June Mar Fajardo registered 21 points and 16 rebounds as the BPC race leaders joined hands to score the Beermen’s final eight points to finish the Bolts for the last time.
Fajardo finished what Perez had started, dropping 15 of his 21 points in the second half as the Beermen led for the majority of the contest although they had to survive some anxious moments from the Bolts who continued to threaten even in the waning moments of the game.
The 6-foot-10 behemoth also hauled down 16 rebounds while Perez set the tone offensively for the Beermen after scoring 17 points in the first half to finish with 26 points.
SMB, however, just could not shake off Meralco, which once again leaned on its balanced scoring from the trio of Aaron Black, Allein Maliksi and Chris Newsome.
“Talagang napakahirap against Meralco, they know what to do in the post, they know what to do in pick-and-roll. They do not want to be left behind by more than five, luckily nakakuha kami ng double-digit but sandali lang iyon. Nakabalik agad sila eh,” said SMB head coach Leo Austria.
The Beermen actually erected a 10-point lead early in the final frame, 83-73, but was quickly erased by a layup from Black and a triple from Maliksi. The Beermen though pounded the ball inside to Fajardo who scored 10 of SMB’s 25 fourth quarter points to keep Meralco at bay. Fajardo buckled down to work afterwards. He first scored from underneath then sank his free throws afterwards to inflate their lead, 92-84, with 1:11 to go.
Perez came in not long after, making both of his own free throws after Kyle Pascual’s own set to help in applying the final changes.
Jericho Cruz made 15 points, while Vic Manuel added 11 markers and 7 rebounds in the win that saw San Miguel shoot 45.9-percent from the floor.
Meanwhile, Chris Newsome led the way for the Bolts with 16 points, four rebounds, and six assists to lead Meralco, who failed to replicate its 99-88 win in Game 2 last Friday. Whereas, Black provided 15 points and 9 rebounds. Allein Maliksi tallied 15 points as well, while Cliff Hodge notched 13 and 12 in the loss.
- San Miguel 96 – Perez 26, Fajardo 21, Cruz 15, Manuel 11, Ross 8, Tautuaa 8, Brondial 4, Lassiter 3, Enciso 0, Herndon 0.
- Meralco 91 – Newsome 16, Maliksi 15, Black 15, Hodge 12, Jose 9, Banchero 8, Quinto 4, Almazan 4, Pasaol 2, Baclao 2.
Quarter Scores: 25-24, 46-42, 71-66, 96-91