Always ready, Herndon fuels Beermen’s Game 3 triumph vs Tropang Giga
A hardly-used player on the talent-laden roster of the San Miguel Beermen became an unlikely hero on Friday.
Robbie Herndon stepped up at a crucial juncture, then redeemed himself from a mistake late in regulation by making the biggest baskets in overtime to give the Beermen a 108-100 win over the TNT Tropang Giga in Game 3 of the PBA Philippine Cup championship series.
The victory, fashioned out at Mall of Asia Arena, gave San Miguel a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“That’s just staying ready,” said Herndon, acquired earlier in the conference in a sign-a-trade deal with Converge. Herndon found space in San Miguel’s crowded rotation early in the tournament before his minutes dipped in the playoffs.
“It’s my fault for not using him for a while for some reason,” Beermen coach Leo Austria, who had not used Herndon for the last three games, acknowledged. “But with this game, he showed me what kind of a player he is.”
The two-way wing came in after veteran Marcio Lassiter and all-around guard CJ Perez both fouled out and then hit a three-pointer that made it 94-90 with 2:13 left in the fourth.
He almost spoiled his big night, though.
Herndon got whistled for a technical foul due to a second delay of game warning while trying to defend inbounder RR Pogoy with 11.7 seconds left in the fourth, allowing the latter to convert a tying free throw at 94-all and opening up a chance for Jayson Castro to replicate his Game 1 heroics.
Castro couldn’t convert a running attempt at the buzzer this time.
“The technical … I had to make up for it,” he told reporters upon emerging from the dugout, much to the delight of his teammates. “I was more motivated and it lit a fire in me because that’s a big turnaround.
“We could have made a stop and won the game. But instead, my mistake gave them a technical free throw and we had to go to overtime,” added Herndon.
He more than made up for his miscue in the extra period.
Herndon scored the first basket of overtime, a putback off a June Mar Fajardo miss. The 29-year-old later drained a three from a kickout pass from Jericho Cruz and the Beermen progressed to a 99-94 lead.
San Miguel never looked back and it won a second straight game after dropping the opener when Castro scored at the buzzer.
Herndon’s performance could make Austria rethink about reinserting him in the bigger scheme of things as the Beermen moved two wins shy of regaining their place as rulers of the All-Filipino tournament.
Fajardo, the San Miguel’s focal point all night, put up monster numbers of 27 points and 27 rebounds despite a physical TNT defense that targeted him.
RR Pogoy, Castro, Mikey Williams and Poy Erram kept a Tropang Giga team battling despite the absence of coach Chot Reyes for the second straight game.
The opportunity for Castro to convert a fourth game-winner this conference following Herndon’s technical was there, forced him to a tough shot as regulation ended.
With Castro’s chance gone, Herndon took his and became the man of the hour.