Arwind Santos made up for his late-game blunder by sinking the game-winner to lift San Miguel past NorthPort, 88-86, for their second straight win in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Sunday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
The former league MVP calmly swished a mid-range jumper off a Marcio Lassiter assist with 1.2 seconds left to play, redeeming himself from the technical foul moments prior that almost proved costly for the Beermen.
The 40-year-old got whistled after elbowing Sidney Onwubere with 7.3 ticks to go, leading to a Robert Bolick free throw that allowed the Batang Pier to tie the game up at 86-all after being down from 16 at the start of the fourth.
Santos finished with 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field, on top of five rebounds and three blocks in the win that hiked SMB’s card to 2-1.
“Unang-una, tinanong mo si Arwind about sa age niya. For me, age is just a number. Makikita niyo naman sa performance niya eh,” said coach Leo Austria. “Alam naman niya kung ano diskarte ko para sa kanya eh.”
CJ Perez top-scored for San Miguel with 18 points and eight rebounds, while veteran Alex Cabagnot chimed in 16 markers.
The two guards led the way in the second quarter, which saw the Beermen score 31 points to take a 52-45 lead at the half.
The onslaught continued in the third stanza, paving the way for the perennial contenders to enjoy a 16-point advantage, 81-65, following a June Mar Fajardo bucket just 19 seconds into the deciding chapter.
But SMB’s plan to cruise to the victory faced turbulence. With the debuting Greg Slaughter steering the wheel, the Batang Pier furiously came back and closed within one, 86-85, following his hook shot with 47.8 seconds to play.
NorthPort had chances to take the lead but it fumbled. But the breaks appeared to have gotten in their favor when Santos got slapped with a technical when he elbowed Onwubere when they got entangled while on the floor.
That gave Pido Jarencio’s wards a chance to tie, and Bolick did just that by calmly converting from the charity stripe.
Santos, however, redeemed himself with his perimeter jumper. The Batang Pier had one last chance to win it, but Kevin Ferrer’s corner three-pointer off a baseline inbound only hit the side of the board as time expired.
“Nag-survive kami sa fourth quarter. It was an ugly finish for us. It was an ugly game in the fourth quarter. But a win is a win,” said Austria.
San Miguel spoiled the much-awaited debut of Slaughter, who led NorthPort with 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting — including one triple — along with 17 rebounds. But the four-time Coach of the Year sung praises for him.
“He’s in shape and he’s ready to punish other opponents. With his size, I think he can dominate because his team is really good and there are a lot of quality players in his team that could support him,” he said.
Bolick had 19 points, eight rebounds, and six assists. Onwubere made 12 points, as rookie Jamie Malonzo chipped in 10 markers for the Batang Pier, who suffered their second loss in three outings.
The Beermen will look to make three straight when it battles Blackwater (0-3) on Wednesday, July 28, at 12:30 p.m. NorthPort, meanwhile, takes on Barangay Ginebra (1-2) on Friday, July 30, at 3:00 p.m.
San Miguel (88) – Perez 18, Santos 17, Cabagnot 16, Tautuaa 11, Fajardo 8, Lassiter 6, Pessumal 6, Ross 3, Gamalinda 3.
NorthPort (86) – Slaughter 23, Bolick 18, Onwubere 12, Balanza 11, Malonzo 10, Taha 9, Rike 1, Ferrer 1, Faundo 0, Elorde 0, Doliguez 0.
Quarterscores: 21-21, 52-45, 79-63, 88-86.