December 12, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

SMBeermen look to finish series with Star

IT HAS not been an easy semifinal series for the San Miguel Beermen in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup against the Star Hotshots, but they have been managing to hack out wins and they are fine with it, more so now that they are one victory away from closing out things.

Up 2-1 in their best-of-five series, San Miguel looks to end Star’s campaign in Game Four today at 7 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena.

A victory by the Beermen would thrust themselves to a second straight PBA finals appearance and keep them on track for a rare league grand slam while a loss extends the series to a rubber match set for Sunday.

The Beermen seized control of the series after guard Marcio Lassiter drained the game-winning three-pointer as time ticked away in Game Three last Wednesday for the 111-110 win.

It was in follow-up to their 77-76 Game Two victory after dropping the series-opener.

“It’s another one-point victory for us but we will take it. We don’t mind that as long as we end up with the W and we are now one win away from the finals,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria in the postgame press conference following their Game Three win.

“It has not been easy against Star because they have been playing good defense and they have a good import in Ricardo Ratliffe. Hopefully we can keep the momentum of this win in the next game and book a finals seat,” he added.

In Game Two, Mr. Lassiter broke Star’s heart with a dagger triple as time expired.

Mr. Ratliffe gave the Hotshots the lead, 110-108, with a basket in the paint with 13 seconds to go.

San Miguel’s first attempt at tying the game was foiled, but the ball found itself in the hands of Mr. Lassiter, who pulled up for a step-back triple which banked on the board before going in as the seconds ticked away for the 111-110 win, sending the San Miguel team and its faithful into celebration after.

Import Charles Rhodes led San Miguel with 36 points and seven rebounds while guard Chris Ross had a near triple-double of 27 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. He also had three steals.

June Mar Fajardo had 18 while game hero Lassiter wound up with 12 points.

Mr. Ratliffe continued with his stellar play for Star with 44 points, 19 rebounds and four blocks.

While they rue the lost opportunity for them, Star coach Chito Victolero asserted that they are not out of it just yet, and they look forward to coming back in Game Four and forcing a rubber match.

“It was a tough loss but we cannot dwell too much on it. We have to move on and go to practice and be ready for Game Four,” the coach told sportswriters after their loss.

“We were up there up to the end and it’s something to be positive about. Right now we are down one game in the series so we have to win in the next game. The series is not yet over until they win three games,” Mr. Victolero added.