Backups keep San Miguel, Magnolia out front
Reserves grabbed the spotlight and kept defending champion San Miguel Beer and sister team Magnolia ahead of the pack at the halfway mark of the PBA Philippine Cup eliminations.
The Beermen, seeking the league’s first four straight title in the all-Filipino series, struggled for three quarters and a half minus the injured Alex Cabagnot before clinching their fifth straight victory at the expense of GlobalPort Batang Pier on Wednesday.
A 24-8 closing rampage from 83-85 with six minutes left turned into a 107-93 rout for SMB in the end with Brian Heruela, the third string point guard of the Beermen more than making up for the absence of Cabagnot by firing 17 points on top of five assists and six steals in 23 minutes of action.
Heruela scored his last nine points while joining hands with former University of Cebu teammate June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos in that whirlwind SMB finish. And with management giving Cabagnot all the rest he needs for his sprained foot, Heruela will be a marked man from now on.
Back in action this season after a knee surgery, Paul Lee suffered another blow when he twisted his left ankle in the third quarter with the Magnolia Hotshots in the thick of battle for second place with the TNT KaTropa on Saturday.
But Magnolia found a savior in backup guard Justin Melton, who suddenly caught fire. He gave the Hotshots a 74-62 lead going into the last quarter and Magnolia held on for a 91-83 decision. Melton finished with 14 points behind the team-high 20 of Mark Barroca, 12 of them as sub for Lee, who had scored 30 in his first game against Alaska last month.
Alaska earlier improved to 4-2 behind the 5-1 mark of Magnolia as the Aces, playing minus Calvin Abueva, hacked out an 88-84 win over the Blackwater Elite, who absorbed a fourth straight loss after a 0-2 start.
Also pulling through without a key player was Rain or Shine, but Ginebra San Miguel just didn’t have what it takes to win with the seven-footer Greg Slaughter joining Joe De Vance in sick bay.
The Elasto Painters played for the second time minus the suspended Raymond Almazan but the ROS squad proved just too good for the NLEX Road Warriors, who now share the same 2-4 card of the Elite.
With Slaughter out with a foot injury, Phoenix treated Ginebra like a second class squad before settling for an 87-82 decision to tie TNT, ROS and GlobalPort at 3-3.
Alone at 2-3, Ginebra faces sister team San Miguel in a game ongoing at press time.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.