PBA: San Miguel returns to Philippine Cup finals with huge victory over TNT

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The San Miguel Beermen are heading into the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup finals for the third consecutive year.

The Beermen dismantled the TNT KaTropa, 96-83, in Game 7 of the semifinals on Monday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Reigning league MVP JuneMar Fajardo paved the way for San Miguel with 22 points, 19 rebounds, and four blocks.

It was expected that both squads would fight tooth and nail in the first half with the Beermen gaining a precarious 41-39 edge at the break.

But it was a different story in the third frame as the San Miguel blasted KaTropa with a 36-point output to create a comfortable cushion.

SMB proved why they were the title favorites this conference as they pulled away in the payoff period with steady executions and high-percentage shots.

TNT star guard Jayson Castro sat out the do-or-die match due to a hamstring injury.

Ranidel De Ocampo, Mo Tautuaa and Troy Rosario tried to anchor a late rally for KaTropa but the Beermen’s lead was just far from reach.

Arwind Santos contributed 22 points and 13 rebounds for San Miguel, while Chris Ross added 18 points.

Larry Fonacier paced TNT with 14 markers.

The Beermen will wait for the winner between Barangay Ginebra and Star Hotshots semis series -- who are set to dispute the last finals spot tomorrow at the Mall of Asia Arena.

SMB head coach Leo Austria is delighted with how his team performed.

"I hope this will continue. I'm so happy with the team, they lived up to the expectations," Austria said.

The scores:

San Miguel (96) - Fajardo 22, Santos 22, Ross 18, Cabagnot 14, Lassiter 12, Espinas 8, Heruela 0, Garcia 0, Tubid 0, De Ocampo 0.

TNT (83) - Fonacier 14, Pogoy 13, Williams 11, Rosser 9, De Ocampo 9, Reyes 7, Rosales 6, Tautuaa 5, Rosario 5, Seigle 4, Tamsi 0.

Quarterscores: 22-19, 41-39, 77-60, 96-83.