Needing just a win to formally enter the 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs, San Miguel Beermen, coming from a long, 14-day layoff, got the job done.
Coming off a loss to TNT Katropa last May 5, the Beermen had to arrest a late-game scare by upset-hungry NLEX Road Warriors to come out with the needed victory, 114-108, Friday night at the Cuneta Astrodome.
“Actually I’m really worried this game because of the long layoff,” stressed SMB head coach Leo Austria in the win, which sends their card to 6-1. “I’m happy were able to recover and dictate the tempo of the game.”
Reinforcement Charles Rhodes led the way to the playoff-clinching win, scoring 37 points on 17-of-22 shooting alongside 19 rebounds and three blocks. The American already posted 20 markers and 11 boards after the first half.
The Beermen once led by as wide as 24, 89-65, late in the third canto, but an offensive surge by the Road Warriors helped them get back. A Wayne Chism lay-up lifted NLEX within eight, 104-96, with 3:29 left in the final canto.
Rhodes and Alex Cabagnot joined hands to restore order, 114-101, with 1:18 remaining, but NLEX scored seven straight capped by an Alex Mallari triple to inch closer again, 114-108. However, the 18.2 seconds left to play were not enough to complete the comeback.
Chris Ross finished with a double-double of 15 points and 11 assists, and added seven caroms, while Alex Cabagnot made 12 markers and 10 dimes. Arwind Santos and Marcio Lassiter chipped in 13 and 12 points, respectively.
June Mar Fajardo, who is coming off a gold medal finish in the 2017 SEABA Championships just last night, decided to suit up for his mother team. Despite being fouled out late in the game, the Cebuano finished with 12 points.
“I’m happy to see June Mar back,” lauded Austria of his prized big man. “Saludo ako sa kanyang professionalism although alam nating he played sa SEABA.”
The Road Warriors were led by Chism with 22 points on 13 shots to go with four rebounds, three assists, and three blocks, while frontcourt partner Rabeh Al-Hussaini supplied 18 markers and seven caroms.
New acquisitions Mallari and JR Quiñahan made their presence felt in their debut. Mallari finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, while Quiñahan produced 12 points.
San Miguel shot 48 percent from the floor, and outrebounded NLEX 57-47. However, they turned the ball over 19 times, eight times more than their opponents, and allowed NLEX to convert it to 13 markers.
San Miguel will figure in a titanic clash with Barangay Ginebra this Sunday, May 21, 6:45 PM at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. NLEX, meanwhile, will face Alaska on May 24, Wednesday, 4:15 PM at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
San Miguel (114) – Rhodes 37, Ross 15, Santos 13, Cabagnot 12, Lassiter 12, Fajardo 12, Espinas 8, Heruela 5, Reyes 0, Agovida 0.
NLEX (108) – Chism 22, Al-Hussaini 18, Quinahan 12, Lastimosa 12, Mallari 11, Tiongson 10, Alas 9, Rios 7, Baracael 5, Soyud 2, Taulava 0, Ighalo 0.
Quarterscores: 36-22; 60-43; 89-73; 114-108.