By Jonas Terrado
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. — San Miguel vs TNT KaTropa
(Series tied 2-2)
San Miguel Beer foiled TNT KaTropa’s bid to erase a 15-point fourth quarter deficit and tied the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals at 2-2 with a 106-101 victory at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Import Chris McCullough found June Mar Fajardo open inside to make it 100-96 with 27.7 seconds left before Chris Ross stripped the ball from Jayson Castro on the ensuing play as the Beermen preserved the win to reduce the series to a best-of-three.
McCullough finished with 27 points and 22 rebounds, Fajardo had 22 points and seven rebounds while Alex Cabagnot recovered from a quiet Game 3 with 25 points and five assists in the victory.
Game 5 is set Wednesday at the Big Dome with the winner gaining a 3-2 lead.
“It’s a very important game for us because we don’t want to be in a 1-3 position,” said coach Leo Austria. “I give my salute to all the players because they’re so focused in this game.”
Terrence Jones, named Best Import before tipoff, posted 32 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and six steals but TNT fell short in its rally from being down 84-69 moments in the fourth.
Troy Rosario scored 24 points, Best Player of the Conference winner Jayson Castro had 17 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals and Don Trollano 16 points and four rebounds.
Fajardo scored 10 straight points during a pivotal 12-0 run as SMB took command, 76-65, after TNT tasted its last lead on Roger Pogoy’s three with 5:34 in the third.
Cabagnot had four assists in the period to also help the Beermen’s cause.
Ross’ layup gave San Miguel that 84-69 lead early in the fourth but Jones and Rosario conspired in TNT’s comeback try.
The KaTropa pulled within four, 96-92, with over two minutes to go. McCullough answered with a dunk off Ross’ missed layup to bring SMB back in front by six, 1:43 remaining.
Jones scored back-to-back baskets, including two foul shots that cut SMB’s lead to 98-96, 40.3 to go, only to commit a defensive miscue when he and Trollano conspired on a double-team, leaving Fajardo open in the paint.
McCullough immediately saw the double and dished it out to Fajardo for the basket that extended the gap to 100-96 in favor of the Beermen.
Castro tried to go for a two but Ross was able to swipe the ball from the TNT guard. Cabagnot made both charities off a foul off a Roger Pogoy foul with 11 ticks left for a 102-96 SMB lead, virtually ending the KaTropa’s chances of stealing the game.
Jones, who on Saturday was fined P20,000 for his headbutt on Ross in Game 3, was involved in a pair of minor skirmishes during the second half.
The TNT import shouted at Arwind Santos after being fouled with 6:47 left in the fourth, resulting in a technical for both players.
Jones also got in a heated exchange with seldom-used Kelly Nabong and Christian Standhardinger in front of the SMB bench late in the contest, prompting Austria to separate Nabong from the fray.
SAN MIGUEL 106 — McCullough 27, Cabagnot 25, Fajardo 22, Pessumal 14, Ross 7, Standhardinger 5, Romeo 4, Santos 2.
TNT KATROPA 101 — Jones 32, Rosario 24, Castro 17, Trollano 16, Pogoy 9, Heruela 3, Casino 0, Magat 0, Carey 0.
Quarters: 31-22; 51-52; 82-69; 106-101