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First outright semifinalist improves to 10-2 as Freeman virtually unstoppable in 4th

ANTIPOLO CITY. -- San Miguel Beer turned to Gabe Freeman in the fourth quarter and the hardworking import willingly took over as the Beermen, already assured of the No.1 seeding even before the start of the game, continued with its winning ways, hacking out a 99-92 victory over Barako Bull Friday night at the Ynares Center.

With just one point separating the SMB and Barako Bull, Freeman made three consecutive free throws then scored on a follow-up dunk off Danny Ildefonso’s missed jumper to stretch SMB’s lead to 95-89 with 70 seconds remaining.

The versatile Freemen eventually finished with 33 points and was a monster off the boards with 21 rebounds for his 11th double-double in as many games as the Beermen bounced back from Sunday’s 105-107 double overtime loss to Burger King.

Dondon Hontiveros scored 23 points, Ildefonso added 14 and Jonas Villanueva had seven assists for SMB which improved to a league-best 10-2 (win-loss) record in the 2009 Motolite PBA Fiesta Conference.

That means the Beermen have secured their place in the best-of-seven semifinals and will have plenty of rest after the classification round before plunging to war in their bid to regain the title they last won in 2005.

SMB coach Siot Tanquingcen gave his troops a tongue lashing during the halftime break, displeased with his team’s lethargic showing in the opening half.

“It’s not enough for us to just show up. We have to come out and play every game,” he said.

Daryan Selvy scored 32 points and had 13 rebounds to show the way for Barako Bull, which led by as many 12 points but came up short.

Jojo Duncil added a career-high 18 points and Gabby Espinas had 12 for the Energy Boosters who picked up their eighth consecutive loss, matching the worst in franchise history, and 12th in 14 games overall.

They wound up their campaign at 10th place and now face the specter of having to win twice over the No.3 seed to advance to the quarterfinals.

It looked like SMB had the game in control late in the opening quarter when it built a 26-10 lead on a 3-pointer by Dondon Hontiveros with 4:29 to play as Barako Bull started the period by missing its first seven attempts and committed two quick turnovers.

Then the Beermen inexplicably lost their intensity, allowing the Energy Boosters to get back in game.

Barako Bull knocked in three consecutive 3-pointers to close the first quarter then scored the first eight points of the second to take the lead, 34-26, on Alex Crisano’s three.

Barako Bull shot 8-for-19 from the 3-point range in the first half.

SMB tied the count at 34 on a basket by Dorian Pena and again at 36 on Hontiveros’s jumper before Michael Hrabak and Selvy sparked an 18-4 run that propelled the Barako Bull to 52-40 halftime advantage. (DBC)

The scores:

SMB 99 – Freeman 33, Hontiveros 23, Ildefonso 14, Pena 10, Pennisi 9, Villanueva 6, Pingris 2, Racela 2, Custodio 0, Bono 2, Washington 0, Gonzales 0.

Barako Bull 92 – Selvy 32, Duncil 18, Espinas 12, Hrabak 7, Sharma 6, Chan 5, Crisano 5, Najorda 3, Rodriguez 2, Juntilla 2, Membrere 0, Ybanez 0.

Quarterscores: 26-32; 52-40; 69-70; 99-92
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