SMB sets up PBA PHL Cup finals showdown with TNT after outlasting Meralco

June Mar Fajardo’s dominant performance propels SMB to another grand final trip. (PBA Images)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

The San Miguel Beermen will have the chance to clinch their 28th Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) championship title after setting up an explosive grand finals series with the TNT Tropang Giga in the ongoing Philippine Cup conference.

San Miguel used their veteran experience and frontcourt advantage to oust the Meralco Bolts during their do-or-die Game 7 of the PBA semifinals, 100-89.

Six-time PBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) June Mar Fajardo put the entire Beermen on his back and put up a performance for the ages after dropping 29 big points and 14 rebounds.

The San Miguel dominance showed out in the most needed time after refusing to give up the lead from the beginning of the game.

San Miguel quickly jumped to a 20-6 lead with 4:51 remaining in the first quarter courtesy of a waxing-hot Marcio Lassiter who drained three shots from downtown on his way to 16 points.

The bleeding didn’t stop for Meralco in the second quarter as the suffocating San Miguel defense only limited them to just four points in the first five minutes while punishing them with their blazing offense that kept on pouring every time they executed their plays.

A sigh of relief finally arrived for head coach Norman Black and the rest of the Bolts after regaining their offensive groove midway in the second quarter but a counter run by Fajardo and the Beermen ballooned the lead to 14 entering the second half, 45-31.

It was all San Miguel for the remainder of the game as the trio of Jericho Cruz, CJ Perez, and Fajardo overwhelmed the Meralco defense. However, shades of Meralco’s Game 6 comeback win happened in the last seven minutes of the game after the Bolts cut SMB’s 23-point lead to just 10, 84-74, with 5:24 remaining.

No matter how resilient Meralco was during the clutch stretch, San Miguel showed they wanted it more after answering back with bigger responses.

Fajardo put on the finishing touches and scored the dagger layup in the paint at the 37th-second mark that extended SMB’s lead to 11, 98-87.

San Miguel will have two days of rest before taking on Mikey Williams and the TNT Tropang Giga in Game 1 of the finals.