Beermen dip into vaunted depth in series-tying win
Instead of sulking over a painful Game 1 defeat that ended with a hotly debated buzzer-beating shot, San Miguel Beer decided to move on. And on Wednesday, the team put the PBA Philippine Cup Finals back on level terms.
The Beermen showcased the depth that has bedeviled opponents throughout the conference and clobbered the TNT Tropang Giga, 109-100, at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
June Mar Fajardo took a backseat as Vic Manuel led the charge for San Miguel’s other weapons, particularly during a decisive run starting late in the third quarter and bridging into the fourth that led to a 1-1 deadlock in the best-of-seven series.
“I’m happy for Vic and Mo [Tautuaa] because they were able to sustain what we’re doing inside,” said San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria. “And it’s a bonus for June Mar because he gets a lot of rest, given how the defense is concentrated on him.”
Manuel, finishing with 20 points behind his patented post moves, teamed up with Tautuaa, Marcio Lassiter and Jericho Cruz as San Miguel uncorked a 15-1 run after a 79-all tie that spelled doom for TNT.
San Miguel was never threatened after that and bounced back from a heartbreaking 86-84 loss in the series opener when Jayson Castro knocked his much-discussed jumper that still has fans arguing whether he got it off in time.
The Beermen opted not to voice, at least publicly, their sentiments and instead spent the three-day break focusing on trying to redeem themselves.
“Maybe that incident woke up the players’ pride and I’m happy for them because they were able to focus on this game,” said Austria.
Lassiter had 19 points on 8-of-17 shooting while Cruz and Tautuaa added 12 and 11 for San Miguel.
Their contributions made it okay for Fajardo to get some extended rest during the crucial part of the contest that had 10 ties and nine lead changes.
The last deadlock was at 79 late in the third, after which Cruz knocked down a triple to end that period before the run continued in the fourth behind Manuel, Tautuaa and Lassiter, whose layup with 7:48 left made it 95-80 for the Beermen.
San Miguel hopes to take control of the series when it shifts to Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City for Game 3 on Friday.
Austria is also glad his team was able to avoid going down 0-2 in the series against a TNT team that played without coach Chot Reyes, who is in Lebanon preparing Gilas Pilipinas for its road match in the Fiba World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
RR Pogoy fired a game-high 28 points, but went scoreless in the fourth, while Mikey Williams was held to seven points after spending a few minutes inside the dressing room when he hurt his ankle early in the contest.
“Even without Coach Chot, we know that they are still a dangerous team,” said Austria.
Fajardo had 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists while CJ Perez was San Miguel’s top scorer with 23.
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