Beermen gain inside track on No. 1 after surviving Bossing | Inquirer Sports
PBA PH CUP

Beermen gain inside track on No. 1 after surviving Bossing

/ 04:30 AM July 11, 2022
June Mar Fajardo (center) steps up in extension for San Miguel. —PBA IMAGES

June Mar Fajardo (center) steps up in extension for San Miguel. —PBA IMAGES

After surviving the loss of a 21-point lead, most coaches would understandably be upset. But San Miguel Beer’s Leo Austria sees it differently.

“This kind of game is good for us,” Austria said after a 110-107 nipping of Blackwater in overtime on Sunday as the Beermen crept closer to top seeding in the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs while getting the character test they need at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

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“Every [team] should feel that kind of game—the one that’s scary. We were up 21, and then all of a sudden we’re tied?” Austria went on. “This is a welcome development for us going into our last two games.”

June Mar Fajardo scored six of his 25 points in the extra session to keep San Miguel on top of the heap at 8-1 with its fifth straight win and preserve the earlier contributions of Jericho Cruz, who matched the six-time Most Valuable Player’s output for the second-straight game.

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CJ Perez added 23 points and Mo Tautuaa 17 to help the Beermen stay on track to claiming at least a top two finish and the twice-to-beat protection in the quarterfinals.

Rashawn McCarthy had 22 points while sophomore Rey Suerte had a career-best 18 in a losing stand that Austria framed as truly commendable for a Blackwater squad that only won a single match during last season.

The Bossing saw their four-game winning streak come to a halt and dropped to 5-2, still within top four contention which will be critical for teams making it past the eliminations.

Still waiting for several key players like Chris Ross and Vic Manuel to get back at full strength, San Miguel now takes aim at winless Terrafirma and a Meralco squad just getting back its bearings in a bid to further tighten the grip on the No. 1 spot.

Qualifying as the top seed not only means facing the lightest possible assignment in the quarterfinals, but also needing to win just once to make it to the Final Four.

Blackwater, for its part, will have plenty of chances to shore up its playoff position with matches Rain or Shine, NLEX, Converge and then Magnolia, in that order, coming up for the rest of the Bossing’s schedule.

“This [near-collapse] helps us develop a lot of character going into the playoffs, which we know will be a different ballgame,” Austria said.

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San Miguel has made it known early that it will settle for nothing less than a championship again, especially now that Fajardo is back to his old dominant self.

After winning this conference for an unprecedented five straight times before their reign ended in 2020, the Beermen have never played this well. INQ

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