San Miguel levels series, 1-1

San Miguel Beer banked on a fiery fourth quarter as it struck back at TNT Tropang Giga, 109-100, to level the Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup best-of-seven finals Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

With a crucial performance from CJ Perez, Vic Manuel and Marcio Lassiter, the Beermen knotted the series at 1-1 and saved themselves from falling to a 0-2 hole early in the series.

Perez led the Beermen’s offense with 23 points and five rebounds, while Manuel scored 12 of his 20 markers in the second half.

Marcio Lassiter chalked up 19 points and six boards, June Mar Fajardo had 13 points and eight rebounds, and Mo Tautuaa and Jericho Cruz combined for 23 points off the bench.

Coming off a stinging 86-84 defeat to the Tropang Giga in Game 1, San Miguel made sure to take advantage of TNT head coach Chot Reyes’ absence due to Gilas Pilipinas duties.

“We’re so happy that we won this game because it’s very hard to beat TNT. They are a well-oiled machine,” Beermen head coach Leo Austria said.

“Even without coach Chot, the foundation was already laid to them. We got lucky because Mikey didn’t do well.”

Perez was San Miguel’s lone double-digit scorer in the half, but the SMB bench finally unleashed its depth and whipped a 13-1 run capped by a Lassiter floater, 95-80, 7:02 in the fourth.

Mikey Williams’ horrible shooting night compounded things for the Tropang Giga, while Roger Pogoy fired blanks after a 28-point output in the first three quarters.

Jayson Castro pickpocketed Perez to cut the lead to only nine points, 107-98, but Erram’s back-to-back misses were too costly for a TNT comeback with less than a minute remaining.

Pogoy topped TNT’s offense with 28 points and four rebounds, while Castro contributed 15 points in a losing effort.

Both teams will shoot for a 2-1 lead when they battle in Game 3 at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday.

The Scores:
SAN MIGUEL (109) — Perez 23, Manuel 20, Lassiter 19, Fajardo 13, Cruz 12, Tautuaa 11, Brondial 7, Ross 4, Enciso 0, Zamar 0.
TNT (100) — Pogoy 28, Castro 15, Montalbo 14, Rosario 11, K.Williams 10, M. Williams 7, Erram 7, Reyes 3, Ganuelas-Rosser 3, Khobuntin 2, Marcelo 0.
QUARTERS: 30-28, 51-51, 82-79, 109-100.

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