San Miguel Beer clawed back from 21 points down and hammered a hard-earned 98-93 win over sister team Ginebra San Miguel Sunday night for a semifinal ticket in the KFC-PBA Philippine Cup at the jampacked Cuneta Astrodome.
Dondon Hontiveros again gave out an explosive performance in Game 3 to send San Miguel to the best-of-seven semifinals showdown against No. 2 Talk 'N Text.
"The way we came back, it's really hard not to give the guys the credit. We came back from the dead," said SMB head coach Siot Tanquingcen. "But I have to give the credit to Ginebra. Despite a depleted line-up, it could have been the other way around."
Hontiveros’ 27-point explosion in the second half was just what the Beermen needed after losing veteran Olsen Racela.
"I just played loose," said the Cebuano hotshot who shot 6-of-11 from the three-point area. "Ayoko pa kasing magbakasyon at siguro na-pressure din ang Ginebra nang mawala si Olsen akala nila magiging madali na."
The Beermen started on a wrong foot when Racela was ejected in the game at 8:59 of the first period after committing a flagrant foul 2 on Jayjay Helterbrand. Racela was ejected for planting a foot on the landing area of Helterbrand while taking a jump shot.
Rookie Bonbon Custodio was also a big help in SMB's second half rally as he contributed 13 points including the go-ahead jumper that gave the Beermen an 87-85 lead just three minutes left in the contest.
Hontiveros stole the ball in the next play that resulted to his uncontested lay-up and banged in a three-pointer for a 92-85 spread with 2:01 left.
The Kings forced a rubber match with a 91-88 win in Game Two and they almost got the job done after erecting a 62-41 lead at 6:25 mark of the third period.
But San Miguel ended that stage with a furious 26-8 exchange capped by Hontiveros's three-pointer that sliced the lead to 70-67.
Hontiveros gave SMB the lead back after a long while a with a three-point play off Sunday Salvacion, 75-74, and from there, it became a see-saw-battle for the sister teams.
Holding an 85-81 lead, Ginebra managed to tie the game for the last time as Helterbrand sank a jumper and fed Willy Wilson at the baseline, 85-all with 4:36 remaining.
Then Hontiveros and Custodio took charge, scoring the next seven points to take the important win for good.
Tanquingcen now braces for a tough series against the Tropang Texters, whom he thought are playing their best basketball in the tournament.
"They (TNT) are playing at a high level now," said Tanquingcen. "The addition of Ranidel (de Ocampo) even makes them a better team but basketball is a team game and we have to play as a team in order to win."