Chris Ross’ endgame defense was one of the reasons why San Miguel completed the comeback from 26 down against Meralco in their PBA Governors’ Cup duel on Saturday night at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
Sure, Shabazz Muhammad carried the Beermen by scoring 45 of his 57 points in the second half, but there’s no question whatsoever that the decorated point guard’s efforts in containing Tony Bishop late were as important.
“That’s what Chris is [there] for,” said head coach Leo Austria shortly after their 115-110 victory that kept their Top Four hopes beating.
The champion mentor admitted that he had reservations in putting Ross against the Bolts’ Panamanian reinforcement after getting a foul earlier.
“Nagtatalo kami sa bench dahil ‘yung first time na dinepensahan niya si ano, nakakuha ng foul,” recalled Austria.
“I thought na baka hindi kayanin, dahil they will go to Bishop at that time.”
Ross, however, insisted on taking on the bigger Bishop, to which his coach simply agreed. After all, he knows very well what he’s capable of.
And the two-time Defensive Player of the Year proved him right time and again. With 44.2 seconds remaining, and with SMB down 110-109, Ross prevented the import from receiving the post entry pass in time, leading to a turnover.
He did the very same thing again with 21.9 ticks to go. Allein Maliksi passed it to Bishop down low, but the latter was not able to catch the ball. It went outside instead, giving the possession back to San Miguel.
Bishop was visibly frustrated as his side was down one at that time. Just a second later, Muhammad was awarded two shots from the foul line, which he both made calmly to stretch their lead to 113-110.
“In the last possession, he insisted na, ‘No, I will take him,'” Austria said.
“His defense caused a turnover, which is the turning point of this game.”
Ross was scoreless in 30 minutes and 13 seconds. But the 36-year-old collected six assists, four steals, and three rebounds in a turnover-less outing, as he showed yet again why he remains an integral part of the Beermen.
“We knew it naman, si Chris Ross, talagang he will give all he knows about defense. And that’s what happened.”
The second game of each playdate is also livestreamed on SMART Sports.