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San Miguel overcomes 20-point deficit to take Game One

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The San Miguel Beermen were never known for their bench. Bench depth was the MO of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.

Trailing by 20 points entering the final quarter, Ronald Tubid and the San Miguel bench spearheaded the defending All-Filipino champs, San Miguel Beermen shrugged off their rusty start and took Game 1 of the best-of-seven semis series against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 109-105, on a thrilling Tuesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The opening moments showcased a back-and-forth affair in what seemed to be a closely-contested match to kick-off the series. However, the Elasto Painters opened the floodgates with a 21-3 run in the middle of the first, including three triples by Beau Belga and JR Quiñahan.

Rain or Shine led by as much as 15 in the first 12 minutes thanks to their frenetic defense, forcing the Beermen to a poor clip from beyond the arc. Fortunately for San Miguel, their MVP June Mar Fajardo scored 10 points to slice the lead down to ten after the first frame.

Rain or Shine’s depth helped continue their flawless start, as the second unit kept bullying SMB’s defense. Maverick Ahanmisi, Chris Tiu, and Raymond Almazan combined to give the Painters a 46-30 lead with 7 minutes left in the first half.

The surge by the bench propelled Rain or Shine to a conference-high output of 68 points in the first half. The ‘Extra Rice’ tandem of Belga and Quiñahan kept pace against Fajardo, who was the lone-bright spot in SMB’s first half, by scoring 31 points at the break.

Three minutes into the third, things got chippy between the two teams, which led to Chris Ross, Beau Belga, and Coach Yeng Guiao receiving technical fouls. This triggered the Beermen to go on a third quarter run through the efforts of their starters. Transition plays shifted momentum to the Beermen momentarily, who sliced the lead down to ten at 81-71 with 2:27 left.

However, as the Beermen’s main guns took their breather, the Painters once again surged to close the quarter on a 10-0 blast and pull away late. Heading into the payoff period, Rain or Shine still had full control at 91-71.

San Miguel redeployed their terrifying trio of Fajardo, Chris Lutz, and Arwind Santos, who were able to fish for five early team fouls on the opposing Painters. The backcourt duo of Ross and Tubid also displayed a tremendous stretch of defense and offense respectively. Tubid made two big threes to bring SMB within two, 100-98, with four minutes left in regulation.

Rain or Shine lost Raymond Almazan due to foul trouble, while his counterpart Fajardo hit form to tie the game down the stretch. With a little over a minute left, Ross drained a long bomb from downtown to give the Beermen a 108-105 lead. On the other hand, Jeff Chan and Paul Lee, who knocked down rally-stopping hits prior to losing the lead, muffed potential game-tying threes that led to San Miguel drawing first blood in the series.

San Miguel outrebounded Rain or Shine, 56-46, despite losing the paint scoring, 44-54. The losing Rain or Shine squad had more second chance points, 21-14, while the two teams had 25 assists each.

Fajardo tallied 36 points in the win, including 10/12 shooting from the foul stripe, 18 boards, and five blocked shots. Tubid played his best game of the season in the comeback win with 15 points, four rebounds, and three three-pointers.

After the match, the veteran shared how he had pumped up the rest of his team despite facing an early 22-point hole. “Nung una we were so relaxed. Parang nawala pride namin. Sabi ko sa kanila, ‘pare, parang di naman tayo champion. Every possession counts, pakita natin yung heart of a champion.'”

In addition, Tubid led the bench mob, as the Beermen overcame the comeback, ignoring the scoreboard and grinding it out until the end.

“They’re (RoS) already celebrating eh (up 22). Kaya pa yan. ‘Let’s grind it out,’ sabi ko sa teammates ko,” Tubid added.

The Painters got 19 points each from Belga and Quiñahan. Paul Lee also chipped in 8 points in his return after two months of absence.

The Scores:
San Miguel Beer (109) – Fajardo 36, Santos 19, Tubid 15, Lutz 9, Cabagnot 9, Espinas 7, Ross 7, Lassiter 5, Arana 2, Heruela 0, De Ocampo 0.
Rain or Shine (105) – Belga 19, Quinahan 19, Cruz 16, Tiu 12, Lee 8, Ponferada 8, Norwood 7, Teng 4, Ahanmisi 4, Ibanes 0, Chan 0.
Quarterscores: 19-29, 50-68, 71-91, 109-105.

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Fired-up Von Pessumal on Kiefer Ravena incident: ‘I’m not here to make any friends’

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Will bridges be burned?

Von Pessumal was heavily-scrutinized Friday evening after an incident with fellow Ateneo lifer Kiefer Ravena.

It took place with 9:50 left in the final frame of the San Miguel Beermen’s highly-charged tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors. After Marcio Lassiter launched a trey, Pessumal looked like he was aiming for the rebound. Instead, he simply charged towards Ravena and pushed him down.

Lassiter’s three-pointer counted, while Pessumal, who was blocked by Ravena in a fastbreak and then received a staredown moments prior, was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul.

It was a surprising sight to see considering the amount of time he and Ravena have spent together — a bond that started ever since they were in high school. Even the second-generation star admitted that he did not expect that from his former running body.

“I did not expect that at all,” said the NLEX rookie.

But Pessumal downplayed such incident despite attempts by scribes to make him elaborate what had really transpired during that moment.

“It’s part of the game. It’s part of the game,” the league sophomore said after the match which they won 109-98. “I don’t wanna say anything, I’m sorry.

“It’s part of the game. Whatever move on. Not a big deal.”

Asked if he was motivated to face Ravena, whom he had shared three UAAP juniors titles, two UAAP seniors crowns, and a SEA Games gold medal with, the 24-year-old shared that he approached Friday’s bout the way he usually does.

“I wouldn’t say motivated [versus Kiefer], I mean, it’s just like any other game. When I play, I don’t see who’s guarding me, I just play,” said the 6-foot-2 swingman.

“I play to win all the time.”

The incident he and Ravena figured in shadowed his performance of 10 points on 50 percent shooting off the bench — the second time he had scored in double figures this season. After Friday, Pessumal is averaging 8.25 points.

“We have to sustain the level of excellence that they (starters) have. Our job is — I wouldn’t say support, but — when we get in, we should bring the level higher so when they come back, the game is easier for them,” he said.

Pessumal was then asked if he and Ravena met each other after the buzzer sounded as the two did not even shake hands after the contest. But, through a short yet strong response, the 24-year-old said that they did not.

“I wouldn’t say anything. I don’t know, after the game?,” he expressed.

“I’m a professional basketball player, I’m not here to make any friends.”

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Yeng Guiao denies using racial slur against Chris Ross

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During the post-game of the San Miguel Beermen’s victory over the NLEX Road Warriors, reigning Coach of the Year Leo Austria said that NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao called Chris Ross the “N” word that caused the commotion.

According to Chris, tinawagan siya ng nigger or ganiyan,” said Austria. “I don’t know but that’s what he explained to me because I confronted Chris Ross because he’s one of the most important players in my team.

“But that’s the thing he doesn’t want to hear so nagflare up yung bata so I cannot blame him.”

Guiao though denied that he blurted out racial slurs against San Miguel’s Chris Ross.

“Hindi. Hindi ko tinawag na N-word. Ewan ko kung may nakarinig. Pero hindi,” clarified the fiery tactician moments after their 98-109 defeat, their third straight after starting the 2018 Philippine Cup with two straight wins.

That tussle, according to Guiao, was just filled with trash talking against each other, as he felt the need to retaliate. In fact, Guiao was even caught by the TV camera saying “son of a bitch” towards the Filipino-American point guard.

“Daldal siya ng daldal eh. Eh sa akin naman kapag ganon, siguro respeto nalang. Lumayo ka nalang tutal mananalo naman na kayo,” he said. “I didn’t understand what he was saying, what he was talking about.

“Nakipagtrash-talking din ako sa kanya.”

Furthermore, the 58-year-old was also caught by the cameras flipping the bird — in one quick motion — also against Ross.

“Oo. Kasama na rin yun.

“Pero ano naman eh, it’s part of, siguro, psychological warfare. Malakas din siya mang-asar. Hindi lang naman sa amin. Everytime naman na mga ganoong skirmishes, he also knows what he’s capable of,” the seven-time champion coach furthered.

But more than this scuffle, it really has become a stressful time for Guiao and the Road Warriors. They have now went down to 2-3 in the team standings, and the mentor sees the great need to end this slump immediately.

“We have to arrest it very soon. Ang susunod na laro namin ay versus Rain or Shine sa Friday. So we need to go back to 50 percent win-loss level para at least may chance ka na maka-playoffs. That’s going to be a crucial game for us,” he stressed.

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Kiefer Ravena shocked with Von Pessumal’s shove: ‘I did not expect that at all’

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Kiefer Ravena and Von Pessumal have been teammates ever since they were in high school, winning three UAAP juniors crowns together. They won two championships together in the seniors level and even played together in Gilas. They were inseparable.

Friday evening however, they were playing for separate camps.

Ravena admitted that he never expected a shove to come from Pessumal during the NLEX Road Warriors’ clash with San Miguel Beermen.

In an off-ball situation, Pessumal charged at Ravena, sending the rookie down to the floor with 9:50 remaining in the final frame. He was then whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul, and Ravena sank one from the line.

“I did not expect that at all,” admitted Ravena after the match in which they lost, 98-109 — their third straight defeat after a 2-0 start. “But hopefully Von doesn’t take it personal.

“I’m just doing my job. They won the game.”

Ravena insisted that there wasn’t any physicality between him and Pessumal prior to that, but he thinks that his former Gilas teammate may have gotten irked by his staredown after blocking him on a fastbreak play early in the fourth.

“When that fastbreak happened — the same exact possession na I challenged him, I looked at him, and after that yun na yung nangyari,” said the 23-year-old guard. “But I never instigated something to provoke Von to do that.

“Probably nung tinignan ko siya.”

Moreover, the second overall pick of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft felt that that incident “started all the commotions during the end game (laughs). Yun yung pinaka-una eh. And with that, the team got fired up and it worked for them.”

He may be right, for the game saw more skirmishes after that: from teammate Michael Miranda kicking Chris Ross to the groin, and with his head coach Yeng Guiao figuring in a heated verbal war also against Ross.

But then, Ravena made it clear that it was never a plan of his to put down somebody, especially someone like Pessumal who he sees as a brother for life.

“You know, Von and I, we go way back. Things like this hopefully don’t become too personal.

“I have no intention na ipapahiya yung tao or sasaktan mo yung tao. Wala namang ganun. Laro-laro lang,” said NLEX’s leading scorer.

It was somehow a night to remember for Ravena, but for all the wrong reasons. After Friday’s loss that sent their card to 2-3, the veteran internationalist now sees the need for him and the Road Warriors to push the panic button.

“‘Di na pwedeng sabihin palaging kailangan namin matuto eh. Pangatlong sunod na,” the second-generation cager expressed.

“Kailangan siguro naming umaksyon.”

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Downcast Chris Ross chooses to stay mum after heated altercation with Yeng Guiao

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Through wins or losses, Chris Ross has always accommodated the members of the press asking for interviews and fans requesting for photo ops every after game. But Friday evening, the nine-year pro was despondent.

Visibly agitated with the events that had transpired during the San Miguel Beermen’s tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors, Ross, with his hoodie covering his head, left the Cuneta Astrodome without saying a word.

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year had figured in physical play after physical play and verbal exchange after verbal exchange with the frustrated Road Warriors.

Ross and Alex Mallari were both slapped with technicals after a confrontation with 9:06 left. This was just the start of many things to come for the Filipino-American defensive specialist

After knocking down a triple and receiving a taunt from Ross, Michael Miranda was assessed a disqualifying foul for an apparent kick to the groin against Ross with 4:35 left.

The tip of the iceberg came with 1:46 left to play and the game all but settled.

Yeng Guiao and Ross figured in a heated word war that resulted in Ross’ second technical foul for the game. Referees and players from both sides had to separate the two to prevent things from escalating.

San Miguel coach Leo Austria alleged that the fiery NLEX mentor said the “N” word, while some said Guiao called Ross a “bitch”.

Ross finished the game with four points, eight rebounds, and four steals in 37 minutes of action.

For sure, penalties and suspensions will come out of this game.

And it was better for Ross to stay silent.

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