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PBA: Beermen make rousing debut

SOL Mercado

by Tito S. Talao

Games Today (Cuneta Astrodome, Pasay City)
3:30 p.m. – Globalport vs Alaska
5:45 p.m. – Talk ’N Text vs Air21

What a difference bringing back a fabled brand name makes.

After a three-year absence as the face of its franchise, San Miguel Beer made a victorious comeback last night, overwhelming the Meralco Bolts, 94-76, in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Import Josh Boone and reigning MVP Arwind Santos each had 16 points as the Beermen, who last carried in 2011 the blazing red, black and gold colors donned by PBA greats Ramon Fernandez, Samboy Lim, Hector Calma and Allan Caidic before the league’s most successful franchise switched to the Petron Blaze brand, completed a fiery debut.

Behind a roaring second quarter run, the Beermen took leads of 20 thrice in the fourth quarter and were never under any serious threat from the Bolts, who got 29 points from outside-shooting 6-foot-11 Brian Butch but little of the burning inspiration usually associated with imports.

Pretty much the same could be said of Boone despite top scoring, but neither newly-named SMB coach Biboy Ravanes nor consultant Todd Purves, who both extolled Boone’s professionalism, would discuss at length any impending import change.

“I leave that up to management,” said Purves, who joined Ravanes at the post-game interview, when asked to confirm reports that a new import is arriving.

“He’s more than professional. He gave us a good, hard game and I appreciate that,” said Purves, who personally scouted Boone.

Ravanes, who took over from Gee Abanilla, now the Beermen team manager and alternate governor, said expectations are high now that they have reverted to their old name.

“We need this win to build confidence because there’s a lot of pressure on us,” he said. “There’s a lot of weight on the players’ shoulders dahil andiyan na uli yung mga diehard fans ng San Miguel.”

The Beermen were without top center June Mar Fajardo, whose left ankle sprain continues to list him as “day to day.”

Said Purves: “It’s just too swollen but we expect him to be back real soon. It’s not that serious.”

Sol Mercado also made his debut with SMB after getting traded by Globalport for Alex Cabagnot, playing 21 minutes and scoring 8 points with 3 assists as he clearly held back in deference to Santos and Marcio Lassiter, who had 12 points.

The Beermen blew the game open in the second quarter where their defense short-circuited the Bolts to 15 percent shooting as Meralco missed 13 of 19.

From 20-all at the end of the first 12 minutes where both teams fought fiercely through 7 deadlocks and 3 leadchanges, San Miguel outscored Meralco, 20-9, in the second, including 12-5 in the last 6 minutes to stretch a 28-24 edge to 40-29 at halftime.

Santos had 11 points in the first 24 minutes, but Boone, a one-time New Jersey Net starter, went 3-of-11 on his debut and may not be around any longer when they take on Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on March 9.