(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
6 p.m. — San Miguel vs Meralco
It’s going to be another dramatic and action-packed battle as San Miguel Beer and Meralco chase the second finals spot when they clash in Game 7 of their Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal series tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Game time is set at 6 p.m. with the Beermen and the Bolts tipped to go all out to clinch this crucial battle and gain the right to face idle TNT Tropang Giga in the best-of-seven finals series.
The Tropang Giga booked a return flight to the finals following an 87-74 victory over Magnolia in Game 6 of their best-of-seven semifinal affair.
San Miguel was supposed to clinch the first finals spot to formalize its dream duel with corporate rival TNT, but Meralco had other thing in mind, playing the spoiler role by pulling off a thrilling 96-92 victory in Game 6 last Sunday.
In that game, Aaron Black — the son of San Miguel’s grand slam coach Norman Black — took the scoring cudgels, firing 11 of his 17 points in the final quarter while drawing support from veterans Chris Newsome, Chris Banchero and Cliff Hodge down the stretch to forge a sudden-death Game 7.
Now that they have already seized the momentum and gained a golden opportunity to wrap up the series, the elder Black vowed to show up prepared and keep the Beermen defense guessing from the opening tip until the final buzzer.
“We’ll just study the tape really well and do what we have to do to get a win in Game 7 and move on to the finals,” Black, one of the most decorated players in San Miguel franchise, said.
“It’s hard to keep them (San Miguel) down. They’re a very good team and I know they’re going to make adjustments going into the next game.”
“We also have to make some adjustments and not really react to them anymore because this is the last game.”
But San Miguel is determined to pull the plug on Meralco to make its first finals appearance in the past three years.
Beermen head coach Leo Austria, although frustrated by their fourth-quarter meltdown, knows that his players are still determined to regain their winning form.
June Mar Fajardo’s dominant performance of 23 points and 11 rebounds in Game 6 went for naught as CJ Perez missed his chance to tie the game that could have put them in a perfect position to grab the victory.
For Austria, they cannot afford to get clobbered by Meralco for the third straight time since the Bolts booted them out in the 2020 All-Filipino Cup playoffs.
“I hope we realized that it’s going to be the most important game in this conference,” expecting an improved display from Perez, Vic Manuel, Marcio Lassiter and Jericho Cruz.
“We are hoping for the law of averages. Hopefully, we can get it and we don’t want to be left behind.”