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San Miguel overcomes 20-point deficit to take Game One

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The San Miguel Beermen were never known for their bench. Bench depth was the MO of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.

Trailing by 20 points entering the final quarter, Ronald Tubid and the San Miguel bench spearheaded the defending All-Filipino champs, San Miguel Beermen shrugged off their rusty start and took Game 1 of the best-of-seven semis series against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 109-105, on a thrilling Tuesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The opening moments showcased a back-and-forth affair in what seemed to be a closely-contested match to kick-off the series. However, the Elasto Painters opened the floodgates with a 21-3 run in the middle of the first, including three triples by Beau Belga and JR Quiñahan.

Rain or Shine led by as much as 15 in the first 12 minutes thanks to their frenetic defense, forcing the Beermen to a poor clip from beyond the arc. Fortunately for San Miguel, their MVP June Mar Fajardo scored 10 points to slice the lead down to ten after the first frame.

Rain or Shine’s depth helped continue their flawless start, as the second unit kept bullying SMB’s defense. Maverick Ahanmisi, Chris Tiu, and Raymond Almazan combined to give the Painters a 46-30 lead with 7 minutes left in the first half.

The surge by the bench propelled Rain or Shine to a conference-high output of 68 points in the first half. The ‘Extra Rice’ tandem of Belga and Quiñahan kept pace against Fajardo, who was the lone-bright spot in SMB’s first half, by scoring 31 points at the break.

Three minutes into the third, things got chippy between the two teams, which led to Chris Ross, Beau Belga, and Coach Yeng Guiao receiving technical fouls. This triggered the Beermen to go on a third quarter run through the efforts of their starters. Transition plays shifted momentum to the Beermen momentarily, who sliced the lead down to ten at 81-71 with 2:27 left.

However, as the Beermen’s main guns took their breather, the Painters once again surged to close the quarter on a 10-0 blast and pull away late. Heading into the payoff period, Rain or Shine still had full control at 91-71.

San Miguel redeployed their terrifying trio of Fajardo, Chris Lutz, and Arwind Santos, who were able to fish for five early team fouls on the opposing Painters. The backcourt duo of Ross and Tubid also displayed a tremendous stretch of defense and offense respectively. Tubid made two big threes to bring SMB within two, 100-98, with four minutes left in regulation.

Rain or Shine lost Raymond Almazan due to foul trouble, while his counterpart Fajardo hit form to tie the game down the stretch. With a little over a minute left, Ross drained a long bomb from downtown to give the Beermen a 108-105 lead. On the other hand, Jeff Chan and Paul Lee, who knocked down rally-stopping hits prior to losing the lead, muffed potential game-tying threes that led to San Miguel drawing first blood in the series.

San Miguel outrebounded Rain or Shine, 56-46, despite losing the paint scoring, 44-54. The losing Rain or Shine squad had more second chance points, 21-14, while the two teams had 25 assists each.

Fajardo tallied 36 points in the win, including 10/12 shooting from the foul stripe, 18 boards, and five blocked shots. Tubid played his best game of the season in the comeback win with 15 points, four rebounds, and three three-pointers.

After the match, the veteran shared how he had pumped up the rest of his team despite facing an early 22-point hole. “Nung una we were so relaxed. Parang nawala pride namin. Sabi ko sa kanila, ‘pare, parang di naman tayo champion. Every possession counts, pakita natin yung heart of a champion.'”

In addition, Tubid led the bench mob, as the Beermen overcame the comeback, ignoring the scoreboard and grinding it out until the end.

“They’re (RoS) already celebrating eh (up 22). Kaya pa yan. ‘Let’s grind it out,’ sabi ko sa teammates ko,” Tubid added.

The Painters got 19 points each from Belga and Quiñahan. Paul Lee also chipped in 8 points in his return after two months of absence.

The Scores:
San Miguel Beer (109) – Fajardo 36, Santos 19, Tubid 15, Lutz 9, Cabagnot 9, Espinas 7, Ross 7, Lassiter 5, Arana 2, Heruela 0, De Ocampo 0.
Rain or Shine (105) – Belga 19, Quinahan 19, Cruz 16, Tiu 12, Lee 8, Ponferada 8, Norwood 7, Teng 4, Ahanmisi 4, Ibanes 0, Chan 0.
Quarterscores: 19-29, 50-68, 71-91, 109-105.

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