The SMB boost proves a big bust
The last-minute import change was supposed to be a boost but the move proved to be a bust.
With a smaller and anything-but-deadly Terik Bridgeman taking over from the veteran and hard-working Wendell McKines, the grand-slam seeking San Miguel Beermen tumbled in a big upset to the hitherto winless Alaska Aces in Angeles City last Saturday.
The Aces ended a five-month 14-game losing spell and picked up their first win in six games in the ongoing Governors’ Cup with a 90-79 rout that dropped the Beermen, who absorbed a second straight setback, to a tie for eighth place with the GlobalPort Batang Pier at 3-3.
Bridgeman, from William Paterson University in New Jersey and a veteran of the Cactus Tbilisi in the Georgian Superleague, finished with just two points on 1 of 4 shooting and committed six turnovers in 21 minutes of action.
He was so ineffective SMB coach Leo Austria opted to play all-Filipino in the second half except for a brief moment late in the third quarter.
“We got a break [tonight]. They got an import that they probably won’t be happy with in the long run,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton, who has not given up hope of the Aces’ going deep now that their long losing streak has ended.
SMB team manager Gee Abanilla had said the team relegated McKines, who had earlier played for Alaska and Rain or Shine, to the injured/reserve list and tapped a replacement “in consideration of our current team composition and health status.”
But McKines was anything but a dead weight for the Beermen, leading the team in scoring in all but one of their last five games before his sudden departure. He scored 19 against Blackwater, 22 against TNT KaTropa behind June Mar Fajardo’s game-high 27, 27 in a losing game against Star, and 35 against GlobalPort.
His last outing was a 28-point job against NLEX, which inflicted a second loss on SMB behind two late long bombs from Larry Fonacier.
The import issue notwithstanding, no one is betting against SMB, with Fajardo seemingly recovered from a foot injury, advancing to the quarterfinals although the three losses were a first for the Beermen in the eliminations this year after dominating the early stages of the Philippine Cup and Commissioner Cup.
With the Gilas Pilipinas players back with their respective squads, an exciting scramble for the top four places among the eight teams advancing to the quarterfinals is expected. The format calls for the top four squads after the single round of eliminations to enjoy a twice-to-beat bonus in the fight for semifinal slots where the pairings call for No. 1 against No. 8, No. 2 against No. 7, No. 3 against No. 6 and No. 4 against No. 5.
Except for NLEX, which is assured of a quarterfinal berth with a 6-2 card, only a game at press time separates the other Final 8 bidders among Meralco, defending champion Barangay Ginebra, Star, Rain or Shine, TNT, Blackwater, SMB and GlobalPort.
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