San Miguel hurdled its first big test in the PBA Governors’ Cup following a 100-98 escape of rival Magnolia, Sunday night at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen improved to 4-0 to create a three-way tie with Converge and NLEX on top of the standings but needed the blessing of Lady Luck after failing to capitalize on the opportunity to seal the deal even before the final buzzer.
CJ Perez missed both of his free throws with 10.2 seconds left, but would breathe a huge sigh of relief when Paul Lee’s potential game-winning trey went off the mark as time expired, dragging his Hotshots to 0-3.
“Definitely, this is a test for us. Magnolia is a very strong and well-organized team. So this game was really big, a big game for us. Just to put us to where we stand in this league,” said head coach Jorge Gallent.
Cameron Clark led San Miguel with 19 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double in a row, Marcio Lassiter fired 18 points — all of which came from deep — while Perez supplied 17 points, six boards, and three assists.
June Mar Fajardo finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while the backcourt duo of Jericho Cruz and Simon Enciso chimed in 13 and 12, respectively.
“Everybody stepped up. From Rodney [Brondial] to whoever I put in. Do you know what’s nice about them? They give their 110-percent even if they know they’ll play five to seven minutes,” said a proud Gallent.
SMB actually opened the match with a 16-4 start behind all of its five starters, only to allow the opposition to come back and take the lead — the biggest of which was seven points, 51-44, during the second quarter.
The Beermen, however, roared back in the third canto and stayed in command the rest of the way, even establishing a nine-point cushion, 100-91, behind Enciso and Clark with under two minutes remaining.
It appeared to be a comfortable lead for Gallent’s charges until Calvin Abueva powered the Hotshots’ comeback and got them to within two with only 18.7 seconds left. But then again, luck went on San Miguel’s side.
“We struggled with our offense in the first half, because we weren’t playing defense. We weren’t reversing the ball, we were just playing 1-on-1, and that’s not us. We had to play as a unit for us to progress offensively,” Gallent said.
The Beermen will be up for another challenge against KJ McDaniels and Meralco on Thursday, 6:45 p.m. still at the Big Dome.
Lee, meanwhile, had 19 points to lead Magnolia, who’s now in the midst of its worst start in a conference with imports under coach Chito Victolero.
Jio Jalalon made 17 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. Mark Barroca made 13 points, while Calvin Abueva added 11 for a Hotshots side that had likely played their last game with import Erik McCree.
McCree did finish with 13 points but struggled to find the mark as shot just 4-of-18 from the floor, including a poor 1-of-10 clip from deep.
Magnolia will take on Du’Vaughn Maxwell and Phoenix Super LPG on Friday, 3 p.m., at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
San Miguel 100 – Clark 19, Lassiter 18, Perez 17, Fajardo 16, Cruz 13, Enciso 12, Brondial 3, Manuel 2, Bulanadi 0.
Magnolia 98 – Lee 19, Jalalon 17, Mccree 13, Barroca 13, Abueva 11, Escoto 9, Laput 9, Dela Rosa 4, Wong 3, Reavis 0, Corpuz 0.
Quarterscores: 26-29, 47-51, 79-70, 100-98
The second game of each PBA gameday is live-streamed on SMART Sports.