San Miguel dominates Ginebra, wins PBA Philippine Cup Finals Game 1

MANILA, Philippines – As expected, this conference’s league leaders San Miguel Beermen continued to dominate and humiliated their sister-team-rivals Barangay Ginebra in front of a sell-out crowd to take Game 1, 109-82 on Friday night, February 24, 2017 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

San Miguel dominates Ginebra, wins PBA Finals Game 1

Coach Tim Cone once admitted that even Phil Jackson won’t be able to stop June Mar Fajardo in the middle. He actually had no choice but to field Joe Devance in the opening quarter to help Japeth Aguilar in guarding “The Kraken.” Unfortunately, it didn’t pay off as both Ginebra bigs struggled offensively and defensively due to the intimidating presence of Fajardo.

Aside from the hulking Fajardo, the backcourt tandem of Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross erupted from the rainbow territory as early as the 8th minute mark of the opener. Coach Cone tried to extinguish the Beermen’s waxing hot hands by calling a timeout to contemplate on the 16-2 lead of their rivals.

Nothing was easy for the Gins. Coach Tim shuffled his players 6 times with 5 more minutes remaining in the first. They even got their points from the foul lines and through high loopers to avoid the outstretched arms of Fajardo.

On the two-minute mark of the 1st period, Coach Leo Austria gave his starters a breather and sent his reserves in. Luckily, the subs maintained their humongous 35-12 lead until the quarter horn sounded.

Coach Austria extended his subs’ playing time on the floor and let them start the final 12 minutes of the 1st half. Ginebra capitalized on this mismatch and fired up offensively through the initiative of veterans Mark Caguioa and Jay Jay Helterbrand.

Finally, after 15 long minutes, the Gins connected from the outside courtesy of Chris Ellis. Slowly, the crowd favorite is inching closer and closer. Ronald Tubid, the ex-Gin, started to heat-up behind the arc to stop Ginebra’s scoring momentum.

Even though up by 25, the Beermen had no signs of relaxing. Instead, Coach Leo’s boys exerted huge efforts to save the ball and battled for the loose ones.

At the end of the 1st half, Barangay found themselves behind by 21, 60-39 heading to the dugout.

30 seconds had gone by after the 2nd half started, Coach Tim Cone immediately called a ceasefire due poor defensive composure that let Alex Cabagnot sank a deep and uncontested three followed by a wide-opened layup from Arwind Santos and another corner trey from Marcio Lassiter. And just like that, San Miguel was up by 30.

Not only did the Beermen make most of their shots, they even had full control on the boards that left the entire Barangay dead silent.

Obviously, Japeth Aguilar had a bad and off night. His presence was not felt in the penultimate quarter that made June Mar Fajardo earned his points from high-low and garbage plays.

Woes continued for the Gins. At with exactly 4 more minutes remaining in the third, rookie Kevin Ferrer was penalized with flagrant foul 1 after unintentionally hitting Marcio Lassiter in the face. This time, SMB increased the margin, 85-49.

Paolo Taha closed the third quarter with a rare three pointer. But still, San Miguel Beermen held a gigantic 33-point lead, 89-56.

Ginebra was running out of time to get closer and pull off a miracle. Scottie Thompson, in the absence of his senior teammates handled the scoring chores all by himself at the beginning of the final quarter. On the other hand, the mighty reserves of San Miguel were tasked to at least maintain their lead while the starters watch them work from the bench.

“The Kraken” rested earlier as expected, but it looked like Ginebra didn’t miss his scoring prowess at all as his back-up Gabby Espinas continued to punish the Gin Kings with his post-up moves and second chance points.

The fans knew that it was all over as seldom used SMB rookie Arnold Van Opstal entered the floor for a chance to impress Leo Austria and delight his teammates. The silver-haired Van Opstal missed both free throws but happy to spend his first 2 minutes of pro-basketball finals experience on the hard court.

The final buzzer echoed with the Beermen bringing home the “W”, 109-82. Chris Ross earned the best player of the game with 17 points and 8 assists.

Game 2 will be held at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City, Quezon where Barangay Ginebra is expected to bounce back and level the series. Tip-off is scheduled at 6:30PM and will be aired live by Sports 5.

--Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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