Behind a 23-point, 22-rebound effort from the reigning three-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, the San Miguel Beermen shrugged off an undermanned Alaska Aces team, 92-88, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Saturday evening.
The Alaska Aces had played without Calvin Abueva, Sonny Thoss, and Noy Baclao due to their respective injuries. They also did not have the services of Vic Manuel and Ping Exciminiano, who both served their one-game suspension due to playing in an outside league.
Despite missing key players, the Aces still fought hard against the Beermen for most of the match, in which they built a 15-point cushion during the second quarter.
JVee Casio led the Aces’ charge to a nine-point, first half lead, scoring 12 of his 20 points. However, the Beermen countered in the last two periods by going almost exclusively to their prized center Fajardo, while increasing the game’s tempo to rack up quick scoring opportunities.
“Expected na naman namin yun na icha-challenge kami. Kulang sila sa tao pero grabe pa rin yung intensity nila,” said Fajardo after the match.
The Beermen did manage to trim the deficit for a moment shortly prior to the end of the third. However, Alaska once again blitzed and increased the lead to 77-70 with ten minutes to go in regulation. With their starters taking care of business against the young Alaska five, SMB eventually closed the quarter with a 16-7 fury to take the lead.
With under a minute left, Casio and Carl Bryan Cruz completed a fastbreak play that shifted the lead back to the Aces. The Beermen responded big time by scoring the game’s last seven points, while shutting down Alaska’s last-minute attempts.
For coach Leo Austria, he admitted this game had been all about pride.
“In my career, ito yung game na kinakakatakutan ko. Everybody’s expecting us to win by a big margin because of what you’ve read about their key players,” claimed Austria, who added that they had missed Alex Cabagnot, who also had to sit out because of his injury.
“I’m happy for the players kasi yung sense of urgency nila andun. I’m happy to see them and nakinig sila sa importance ng game na to. Kung matalo ka dito, mas okay pa na natalo kami nung finals. We have nothing to gain dito.”
The Beermen shot 19-for-25 from the free throw area against Alaska’s 11-for-15 clip. SMB out-rebounded Alaska 58-43, while also dominating the points in the paint battle, 48-36.
San Miguel (2-1) look for their first win streak of the season against the Mahindra Floodbusters (0-2) on December 11, 4:15pm, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. Meanwhile, the Aces (0-2) are still winless and look to barge onto the win column against the GlobalPort Batang Pier (2-0) on December 14 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
San Miguel (93) – Fajardo 23, Santos 16, Lassiter 14, Garcia 13, Espinas 12, Agovida 8, Tubid 2, McCarthy 2, Ross 2, Van Opstal 0.
Alaska (88) – Casio 20, Dela Cruz 15, Mendoza 12, Cruz 11, Banchero 7, Galliguez 5, Jazul 5, Racal 5, Magat 5, Hontiveros 3.
Quarterscores: 16-22, 44-53, 70-72, 93-88
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