By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE best-of-seven Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup finals series between the San Miguel Beermen and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings is now levelled at a game apiece after the former pulled abreast with an impressive 134-109 victory in Game Two on Sunday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Showing the sense of urgency of a team whose back was against the wall, the defending champions Beermen went all-out right from the opening tip to take end-to-end control of the game to book the series-tying win and reduce the series to a best-of-five.
San Miguel got off to a strong start led by import Renaldo Balkman and guard Alex Cabagnot.
The Beermen opened things with a 6-0 blast in the first minute and a half before extending their lead to 21-10 by the halfway point of the opening quarter.
Barangay Ginebra tried to narrow the gap the rest of the way but found itself still down by 11 points at the end of the first 12 minutes, 34-23.
In the second period, the Beermen continued with their strong push, outscoring the Kings, 24-14, three-fourths into the quarter to take their lead to 23 points, 64-41.
Mr. Cabagnot and Christian Standhardinger then got to help their team to finish stronger and end up with an even bigger lead of 29 points, 75-46, at the half.
June Mar Fajardo started the third canto with a basket to take San Miguel’s lead briefly to 31 points, 77-46.
But Barangay Ginebra, led by import Justin Brownlee and Joe Devance, started to make their move after, outscoring San Miguel, 19-8, to narrow the distance, 85-65, with 5:30 to go in the quarter.
Messrs. Cabagnot and Standhardinger, however, would save the period once again for the Beermen as they maintained a 20-point cushion, 99-79, heading into the final frame.
The two teams went back-and-forth to begin the fourth quarter.
San Miguel held a 112-90 lead with seven minutes remaining on the clock.
The Kings attempted to charge back but just could not get the leverage they wanted even when San Miguel forward Arwind Santos and Chris Ross were ejected in succession for a Flagrant Foul 2 and two technical fouls, respectively.
Barangay Ginebra got to within 18 points, 119-101, with 4:55 remaining but could not get any closer than that as San Miguel made its way to the win.
Mr. Cabagnot paced the Berrmen with 33 points, nine assists and four steals.
Mr. Fajardo had 25 points while Messrs. Balkman and Standhardinger had 20 points apiece.
Mr. Brownlee, meanwhile, led the Kings with 29 points with Mr. Devance and Scottie Thompson adding 16 each.
“We were sad after the first game but the players knew the importance of Game Two and they came out furiously at the start,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria after Game Two.
“Good thing we got this win. It would be hard to be down 0-2. Now we have a series,” he added.
Game Three of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals is on Wednesday.
--This article was published in "BusinessWorld"--