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De Ocampo’s big game a testament to San Miguel’s depth

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Since Leo Austria took over the San Miguel franchise as the team’s head coach, the Beermen developed an identity and every move the management did only made it better for the group.

On Wednesday night, San Miguel was facing a tough NLEX squad minus Gabby Espinas (bruised knee) and Marcio Lassiter (groin; family matters). And as if those absences weren’t enough, June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos both picked up their fourth personal fouls in the third quarter.

The Road Warriors snatched the lead, but that was when the Beermen used their depth to match their opponent’s intensity. Yancy De Ocampo, Ronald Tubid, Brian Heruela, and Ryan Arana joined hands to give San Miguel more spark off the bench.

An 8-0 run made it a 52-48 San Miguel-lead late in the third, enough to give the Beermen cushion before their starters returned. Still, challenges came along the way. Fajardo fouled out late in the fourth, finishing with only nine points and nine rebounds on 4-for-11 shooting.

A Jonas Villanueva trey forced extension, and it looked like the Road Warriors were about to steal the match. However, that was when San Miguel showed they were more than just Fajardo or Santos or their starters.

De Ocampo scored the first five points of overtime, and the Beermen zoomed past the Road Warriors to claim solo first at 8-1. “I’m happy to see those players come off the bench,” Austria said after the game. “Maybe that is a result of what we are doing in practice. Yung first team namin always kalaban ang second team. Hindi ako gumagawa ng masyadong combination dahil alam ko time will come pangit ang laro (ng iba).”

De Ocampo, who is just averaging just 1.4 PPG and 1.7 RPG on 5.2 minutes/game, was the high point man for the Beermen with 17 points and grabbed 12 boards in a timely explosion. Tubid added 14 points and was a plus-13 while Arana chipped in 9 points. San Miguel’s bench outscored the NLEX subsitutes, 51-18. The Beermen stayed in the hunt for one of the two semi-finals slots.

“That’s why we got Yancy, just in case may mangyari kay June Mar. Then we have Jay-R (Reyes), to backup June Mar. I told them every player here, may playing time o wala, you have work to do. At yun ang nangyari, nag-step up si Yancy at pinakita niya yung kanyang experience,” Austria added.

De Ocampo later said playing lengthy felt new, especially after an injury-riddled 2014-15 season. “Nung una naninibago rin ako. Halos one year akong hindi nakapaglaro ng ganito kasi galing ako sa injury. Buti na lang nakabawi,” he said, not minding whether he plays big minutes or not. “Basta gamitin kami o hindi, lagi kami ready. Ang mentality ko naman, anytime, nakaback-up ako kay June Mar.”

With more maturity among its players and strength in numbers, San Miguel looked like an even scarier team for the rest of the league, and the win against NLEX are one of those nights where the team proved why they are the defending champions — they have a good team going.

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