Beermen take 1-0 cushion, trip Warriors

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SAN MIGUEL Beer veteran and newly crowned ABL MVP Asi Taulava posts up against Indonesia import Steve Thomas. AUGUST DELA CRUZ

JUST hours after copping the MVP plum, Asi Taulava showed once again that he’s still at the top of his game.

Taulava came through the final stretch as San Miguel Beer slipped past Indonesia, 75-70, to take a 1-0 lead in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) last night at Ynares Sports Arena.

The 40-year-old Taulava buried a game-high 22 points, including San Miguel’s last six points, on top of 10 rebounds to power the Beermen past the defending champion Warriors.

“We put our premium on defense,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria. “It’s hard to get an open shot. We were more focused tonight. Every possession counts.”

Chris Banchero also delivered with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Val Acuña knocked in a pair of key triples in the last seven minutes to finish with 13 points.

The top-seeded Beermen will have homecourt advantage anew in Game 2 at 3 p.m. tomorrow at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City, before the next two games head to Jakarta.

Right before the game, the league formally presented last night the MVP award to Taulava and the Coach of the Year honor to Austria.

“I’m thankful for the award but that’s not the bigger picture,” said the 40-year-old Taulava, who also bagged the top individual plum in the PBA 10 years ago.

“This team was formed to win the championship,” added Taulava. “That’s what the team has been looking forward to all season.”

Steve Thomas led the Warriors with a double-double of 20 points and 17 boards.

The scores:

SAN MIGUEL BEER 75–Taulava 22, Banchero 15, Acuña 13, Avenido 12,  J. Williams 6,  Fortuna 5, B. Williams 2, Hubalde 0, Cawaling 0.

INDONESIA 70–Thomas 20, Pringle 15, Daniels 14, Wuysang 13,  Cañada 4, Smith 2, Sitepu 2.

Quarters: 18-23, 38-38, 59-55, 75-70

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