San Miguel survives Meralco in thriller to tie series

SCHEDULE: PBA Philippine Cup Finals San Miguel vs Meralco

San Miguel Beermen's CJ Perez during Game 2 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals against Meralco Bolts.

San Miguel Beermen’s CJ Perez during Game 2 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals against Meralco Bolts. –MARLO CUETO/

San Miguel played with steely nerves down the stretch to survive plucky Meralco, 95-94, leveling the championship series of the PBA Philippine Cup to a game apiece.

The Beermen rode the hot hand of CJ Perez all of Friday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City, to keep the Bolts within striking range before turning to Marcio Lassiter in the crunch for a step-back triple with 13 ticks left to seal the club’s escape act.

“A very good shot by CJ to bring the lead down to one and then another good shot from Marcio to give us this victory today. So, kudos to the two of them,” said head coach Jorge Gallent.

HIGHLIGHTS: PBA Finals Game 2 San Miguel vs Meralco

“Sobrang crucial talaga ng Game 2, so binigay naming ang 110 percent naming. ‘Di siya perfect but I know makaka-adjust pa kami in the next games naming,” added Perez, who finished with a playoff career-high 34 points that went with five rebounds and five steals.

June Mar Fajardo chipped in 17 points while Don Trollano and Mo Tautuaa 12 and 10, respectively, as the powerhouse squad–installed as the favorite in this best-of-seven series–avoided sliding into a 0-2 deficit.

San Miguel’s high-wire escape laid waste to the heroics of Cliff Hodge and Chris Banchero. The former had a season-best 25 points spiked with nine rebounds, while the latter delivered 16 points, including a trey with 27 seconds remaining that seemingly took the fight out of the Beermen.

READ: PBA Finals: Meralco still ‘absolutely’ has not cracked San Miguel code

Perez, who later in the post-game chat said that he was not going to let his shooting percentage get in the way of his efforts, hit a three to pave the way for Lassiter’s eventual game-winner. He was 12-for-28 from the field in the equalizing Game 2.

Chris Newsome had 14 points for the Bolts, who led by eight points at one point in the duel.

The two clubs will break the series tie this Sunday at the same venue.

PBA Scores:

SAN MIGUEL 95 – Perez 34, Fajardo 17, Trollano 12, Tautuaa 10, Cruz 7, Lassiter 6, Ross 5, Brondial 2, Teng 2, Enciso 0

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MERALCO 94 – Hodge 25, Banchero 16, Newsome 14, Quinto 9, Maliksi 8, Rios 6, Bates 6, Torres 5, Caram 3, Pascual 2, Almazan 0, Jose 0

Quarterscores: 21-22, 49-48, 69-73, 95-94.