Much more from Mo, Beermen
He was every bit the most improved player of the last season, as Mo Tautuaa celebrated his new role as San Miguel Beer’s Tower of Power in its bid for a record sixth straight Philippine Cup title on Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With the injured June Mar Fajardo watching from the bench after being honored with an unprecedented sixth consecutive MVP, Tuatuaa shot a game-high 20 points on top of 11 rebounds and two blocks as the Beermen blasted Magnolia, 94-78, in an early meeting between the last two finalists of the PBA’s most prestigious tournament.
The 6-foot-8 Tautuaa, who joined the Beermen in what many felt was a lopsided swap that sent Christian Standhardinger to NorthPort halfway through the last Governors’ Cup, also drew support from three SMB aces.
But with the way the 2015 top draft pick asserted himself in the shaded area with his quick forays, the Beermen won’t miss Fajardo that much as the 6-foot-10 Cebuano center recuperates from a fractured right shin suffered in practice.
Terrence Romeo, in a rare start, scattered 19 points while Arwind Santos contributed 18 points and 15 rebounds. Marcio Lassiter, wearing a face mask to protect a broken nose, added 17 for SMB.
Observers noted that Santos’ strong double-double was his way of atoning for an incident during a team workout that he sparked and led to a players’ fight that eventually ruined SMB’s bid in the last Governors’ Cup and the coveted Grand Slam.
The Beermen had looked ready for a title sweep until their Governors’ Cup reinforcement, Dez Wells, then recovering from a foot injury, resented a hard foul inflicted by Santos during practice.
The incident deteriorated into a fight among the Beermen, with Wells later deciding to leave SMB for good. John Holland came in as a replacement but he was nowhere close to Wells’ credentials, and the Beermen were later eliminated in the quarterfinals by sister team Barangay Ginebra, which eventually won the Governors’ Cup.Rafi Reavis and Marc Pingris, both indisposed, would have tested Tautuaa’s worth in the paint, although Magnolia showed some spunk. After trailing by as many as 23 points, the Hotshots came within seven two times, the last at 56-63 late in the third period.
But with Tautuaa and Romeo again on the firing end, the Beermen went on to reassert their mastery of the Hotshots in the last quarter.
Now it’s up for the league’s other big men, led by Japeth Aguilar of Ginebra, Standhardinger and Poy Erram of the TNT KaTropa, to show they have much more to show than Mo. INQ