After a heartbreaking defeat in Game Two, the San Miguel Beermen entered Game 3 without Tyler Wilkerson, who had altercations with the team.
However, the Grand Slam-seeking Beermen showed their championship heart as the kept their Commissioner’s Cup campaign alive behind an All-Filipino roster with a 102-98 squeaker over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Thursday night at Ultra.
The locals crew played well offensively for San Miguel, as they went tooth-and-nail against the painters in scoring. The offensive-filled quarter for both teams started with Alex Cabagnot already scoring nine points to carry his Beermen team. On the other hand, the Elasto Painters erased an early seven point lead behind transition baskets by their second unit players. In addition, Rain or Shine closed the quarter on top, 31-27, as Jericho Cruz drilled two threes to lift them in the dying seconds of the opener.
SMB’s main man June Mar Fajardo entered foul trouble early in the game, but managed to power the Beermen in the second frame. Fajardo scored six quick points that pushed the Beermen to a 35-34 momentary lead. Rain or Shine countered with an 10-2 spurt on perimeter jumpers that paved way for the team to hold a two point lead at the break.
Rain or Shine pounded the Beermen early in the new half with a 7-0 spurt. Unfortunately for them, the rest of the quarter went entirely the way of San Miguel. The Beermen splashed six triples, that started from a 12-0 run to erase a nine point lead. Marcio Lassiter was instrumental in this stretch, as his squad completed the turnaround in the pivotal period that gave them a double digit at the end of it.
Then came the thrilling fourth quarter wherein the two teams showcased an offensive shootout from the floor. Unlike Games 1&2 of this series, Rain or Shine showed that they can fight back, but San Miguel made sure to hang on this time. Jericho Cruz, JR Quinahan and Jeff Chan helped RoS claw to as close as one point. However, Arwind Santos drained a huge three in the latter stretch. The Painters also slipped their chances with costly turnovers down the stretch.
Rain or Shine dominated the glass department, 58-41. However, the Beermen capitalized on turnovers better and had more scoring on transition, 35-25 and 14-7 respectively.
Coach Leo Austria was impressed by his team’s performance and was left in awe after the game. “Wala akong masabi. I think we proved it and our players contributed a lot. Yung plays ng import namin were played well by locals. What I want from them is to play their game kasi if they play like the way we played in All-Filipino, we have a good chance.”
“Well, lucky kami kasi panalo kami ngayon, kundi kasama na kami sa Boracay Cup.” Austria jokingly added.
Lassiter scattered 30 efficient points, five rebounds and ⅝ shooting from downtown. This is a dramatic increase from a combined 6 points and subpar 2/14 sniping from beyond-the-arc for the past two games.
“It was a team effort tonight and we saw ourselves believing and put our heart on the floor. Everybody did part and got it going. It’s just a start, hopefully it carry over until Sunday. We know each other and we know when the game’s on the line. That’s what we showed tonight.” shared Lassiter.
Jericho Cruz finished with 25 for RoS, together with nine rebounds and four steals. Paul Lee added 15 points.
Game Four will be played on Sunday, 5pm at Araneta. Also, SMB is expected to parade a new reinforcement. Details will be released soon.
San Miguel (104) – Lassiter 30, Cabagnot 28, Santos 18, Fajardo 13, Espinas 5, De Ocampo 4, David 3, Ross 2, Arana 1, Heruela 0, Tubid 0
Rain or Shine (98) – Cruz 25, Lee 15, Ahanmisi 12, Quinahan 11, Chan 8, Almazan 7, Henderson-Niles 7, Belga 5, Norwood 4, Ponferada 4, Ibanes 0, Tiu 0
Quarterscores: 27-31, 51-53, 80-70, 104-98