San Miguel Beermen bounce back, steal Game 3 from Gin Kings

MANILA, Philippines – It’s not really good to wake-up “The Kraken.” Once he’s awake, he will surely do massive damage to any team that he faces. Tonight, Barangay Ginebra experienced the wrath of a titan as June Mar Fajardo and the San Miguel Beermen demolished them, 99-88 on March 1 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

San Miguel Beermen bounce back, steal Game 3 from Gin Kings
“The Kraken” has been released! June Mar Fajardo ate his defenders alive to win Game number 3. Photo Credit: INQ
After tying the series to 1 apiece, both teams entered in a virtual “best-of-five finals,” a whole new ball game for both squads who started game 3 with the desire to carry the winning momentum.

Coach Tim Cone has already cracked the code on how to stop “The Kraken.” So he ordered his boys to do the same in this ball game. But for sure, his counterpart, San Miguel Coach Leo Austria had come prepared with a new set of battle plans. Aside from that, third-stringer and another legit shooter - point guard RR Garcia has been re-activated after nursing a shoulder injury in the first 2 games.

Transition defense was the bread and butter of Ginebra in the 1st quarter headed by LA Tenorio who drained multiple tear drops from the middle and was backed-up by Sol Mercado from the outside. At the end of the opening quarter, Ginebra tasted a 5-point 24-19 lead.

Coaches started the second period with all of their starters taking a breather on the bench. Nevertheless, the Kings still maintained their margin and even ramped it up to double digits, 41-29 initiated by veteran Mark Caguioa and reserve Chris Ellis. Turnovers continued to kill San Miguel. Even the starters struggled to complete clear possessions that opened up opportunities for the Gins.

With 5 more minutes remaining in the half, SMB threatened to come back with Marcio Lassiter spotting behind the rainbow arc. This time, no more “Salt Bae” gestures for Lassiter in fear of getting ejected anew due to taunting and unsportsmanlike conduct.

Despite of San Miguel’s scoring run in the dying minutes of the 1st half, Ginebra still managed to protect their lead. Although, 5 points were really too small to sit back and relax inside the huddle room. 49-44 in favor of the Barangay.

June Mar Fajardo still can’t get his rhythm going. He was denied most of the time. Whenever he had the ball, the Ginebra guards attempted to strip the ball from his hand and forced the gentle giant to kick out the basketball to his open teammates.

At 7:30 mark of the third, Chris Ross made his 14th point and tied the game to 54. Slowly but surely, San Miguel was matching their rivals’ intensity.

Believe it or not, no player had scored a threepointer until the 3:05 of the penultimate quarter courtesy of Alex Cabagnot that switched the lead to their side. After a minute, Cabagnot knocked down another trey to increase their advantage 69-66.

Truly, San Miguel missed the services of Marcio Lassiter in the latter part of game 2. But tonight, Lassiter inflicted some damages to Ginebra in the last period along with Ronald Tubid from the three point territory.

Both protagonists traded baskets midway of the fourth. Kevin Ferrer however, made sure that his team got the biggest share of the pie by posting threats from the three point lane. The rookie didn’t waste the opportunity that his coach gave him and exchanged it with quality minutes.

June Mar Fajardo put his team on his shoulders with few more minutes left in the game. Triple-team didn’t even bother him from scoring. Defensively, Fajardo stopped and blocked some crucial shots to prevent the Gins in retaking the lead.

Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross protected the ball by adding more points while Arwind Santos and June Mar Fajardo battled for every board until the final buzzer sounded.

“The Kraken” has finally awakened from a deep sleep! June Mar Fajardo recorded a terrific double-double with 17 points, 18 rebounds and 3 blocks while Chris Ross share the honors with 24 points and 8 assists to help their team in sealing the deal.

The San Miguel Beermen will now head to game number 4 with the 2-1 series advantage on Friday, March 3 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum which will be aired live by TV5.

--Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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