SMB Wins a close one against Phoenix
The Kraken led the way with another dominant performance (Photo by PBA Media Bureau)
The Phoenix Fuel Masters took the lead early on in the first quarter, fell behind by double figures during the next 2 quarters before coming back alive during the dying minutes of the 4th quarter. In the end, it was the championship experience of June Mar Fajardo and the rest of the San Miguel Beermen that prevailed as they avoided an upset by defeating the eliminated Phoenix team, 109-107. And doing so wasn’t easy either even for an experienced team.
Like the other teams who are already assured of their respective quarterfinal slots, the San Miguel Beermen knew they have to win their remaining games if they want to improve their position come the quarterfinals.
Here’s the thing, if the Beermen win this game, they will be tied with the NLEX Road Warriors for the 4th spot which will give them a chance to earn a twice-to-beat advantage. If they lose, they will be tied with the Rain o Shine Elasto Painters for the 5th spot. Either way, the Beermen will be tied with another team and if you are a team who is gunning for a rare grand slam, you would surely prefer to be fighting for a twice-to-beat incentive in the quarterfinals, right?
After Fuel Masters import Brandon Brown scored 17 points in the first quarter alone, the Beermen, led Alex Cabagnot, June Mar Fajardo and Chris Ross, buckled up on defense as they successfully contained Brown during the entire second quarter alone which enable Leo Austria and his team to mount a comeback and eventually take the lead 56-52 heading into halftime.
While both teams struggled offensively, only shooting 37% in the field during the first half, the 2-pt field goal percentage of San Miguel proved to be the difference as they outperformed Phoenix 50% to 42% in that category during the entire game. Free throw shooting has also played an important part as well as total assists as the Beerman has proven again and again that they can beat any team if they are fluidly passing the ball around, looking for the best scoring option.
When the 3rd quarter started, the Beerman wasted no time pouring point after point after point. Marcio Lassiter converted on back-to-back three pointers and then the Kraken followed with a 3-point play, forcing Phoenix Coach Art Vanguardia to call a timeout with 9:30 to play in the quarter. The Beermen went on to keep a double-digit lead during majority of the third quarter.
Then, things got interesting in the 4th after Phoenix trimmed down San Miguel’s lead to 3 with under 8 minutes to spare in the game only to be answered by another Lassiter trey.
Both teams traded both made and missed baskets in the next few minutes of the 4th. The Fuel Master got as close as 2 points, at 98-96 with five minutes on Matthew Wright’s free throws. Then, on Brandon Brown’s free throws, the game was tied at 100 with under 3 minutes to go until the Beerman answered with 4 straight points to put their lead up by 4-points with under 2 minutes left.
The Fuel Masters still had one more chance to inch closer but Mathew Wright uncharacteristically air-balled a 3-pointer with under a minute left. To make things worse, Arwind Santos was able to tap the ball away from Brandon Brown then Fajardo was fouled and made both free throws. Jeff Chan later scores on a lay-up to cut the lead to 4, at 106-102 with 21 seconds to go in the game. Cabagnot made 1 of 2 free throws after winning a jump ball and then JC Intal nailed a trey with under 10 seconds only to for Cabagnot to make 2 more throws to ice the game with 6 seconds to go.
The Fuel Masters scored on another basket with 1 second remaining but that proved to be their last hurrah as the Beermen dribbled away the clock off a timeout.
Terrence Watson led the way for the Beermen with 26 points to go along with 11 rebounds. Fajardo, for his part, finished with 24 points, 17 rebounds and 6 blocked shots. Alex Cabagnot also finished with 24 points and 13 rebounds to complement the performance of Watson and Fajardo.
On the other side, Brandon Brown had 30 points while Jeff Chan had 18 points on 8 out of 16 field goal shooting. JC Intal followed up with 12 points on his own. In fact, the bench of Phoenix actually outscored their San Miguel counterparts 33-22 but we all know that the Beermen have one of the best starting units in the PBA today.
San Miguel – 109
Watson 26, Fajardo 24, Cabagnot 24, Santos 15, Lassiter 13, Ganuelas-Rosser 4, Espinas 3, Ross 0, Heruela 0, McCarthy 0, Pessumal 0, Reyes 0, Agovida 0, Semerad 0, Tubid 0, de Ocampo 0
Phoenix – 107
Brown 30, Chan 18, Intal 12, Eriobu 10, Alolino 9, W. Wilson 8, Dehasa 7, Wright 5, Lanete 4, Kramer 2, Jazul 2, J. Wilson 0, Hayes 0, Miranda 0, Ababou 0
23-28, 56-52, 86-77, 109-107