(UPDATED) The San Miguel Beermen are through to the semifinals of the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup after holding on for a 100-95 victory over the NorthPort Batang Pier, Thursday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
San Miguel completed a two-game sweep of NorthPort in their best-of-three quarterfinals series, and arranged a best-of-seven affair against top-seeded TNT Tropang GIGA in the semis.
CJ Perez led the way for the Beermen with 21 points on 6-of-12 shooting, along with four rebounds and two assists. Mo Tautuaa added 17 points, and June Mar Fajardo had a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds. Marcio Lassiter finished with 15 points after making four three-pointers.
"We all knew that it will not (be) an easy game, because this is a do-or-die for NorthPort," said SMB coach Leo Austria after their win. "We consider NorthPort as a strong team, a team to beat."
"Before the game, I asked the team na, we have to take this seriously dahil their back is against the wall, and at the same time, we want to get into the semifinals right away," he added.
The Beermen led for most of the game and had a double-digit advantage midway through the fourth quarter, but the Batang Pier clawed their way back, thanks to their young core of Robert Bolick, Jamie Malonzo, and Sidney Onwubere.
An Onwubere layup made it a four-point game with under five minutes left, 89-85, but Lassiter nailed a three-pointer on the other end to give the Beermen some breathing room.
Buckets by Chris Ross and Arwind Santos pushed the San Miguel lead to nine points, 96-87, with a minute and 23 seconds to go but the Batang Pier showed no quit. Onwubere converted another layup and Greg Slaughter added a dunk to keep NorthPort in the hunt, 96-91, with a minute left in the game.
But Perez, Ross, and Lassiter made their free throws down the stretch, allowing San Miguel to hold on for the victory.
It will be San Miguel's return to the semis of the All-Filipino Cup after their run of five consecutive titles was ended last year in the quarterfinals by Meralco. For Perez, it will be his first semifinals appearance in his young PBA career.
"Speechless pero ayun nga, sobrang excited ako," said Perez, who was acquired by SMB in a blockbuster trade with TerraFirma in the offseason.
Meanwhile, it was a tough end for the Batang Pier, who got their hearts broken in Game 1 of the series by an Alex Cabagnot game-winner. This time around, they couldn't get over the hump despite a 27-point, 12-rebound performance from Slaughter.
The rookie Malonzo had 17 points, offsetting his 3-of-9 field goal shooting by making 10 of 12 free throws. But Bolick struggled with his shot, making just six of 18 attempts although he also added 14 assists and eight rebounds.
The scores :
SAN MIGUEL 100 – Perez 21, Tautuaa 17, Lassiter 15, Fajardo 12, Romeo 11, Ross 11, Santos 11, Cabagnot 2, Pessumal 0
NORTHPORT 95 – Slaughter 27, Malonzo 17, Onwubere 14, Bolick 12, Taha 9, Balanza 8, Rike 5, Doliguez 3, Elorde 0, Ferrer 0
Quarters : 17-19, 46-39, 74-66,100-95