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PBA: Beermen prevail

SOL Mercado and Mick Pennisi

Games Tomorrow (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – Kia vs Globalport
7 p.m. – Ginebra vs Blackwater

Manila, Philippines – San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria didn’t hide the fact his players may have been preoccupied with something else during yesterday’s nip-and-tuck game with Barako Bull.

And as a consequence, the Beermen’s unbeaten record nearly got a beating.

“I was surprised at how low our energy level was,” Austria said after SMB turned back Barako Bull, 103-89, after a closing flurry in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. “Maybe they were already thinking of our next game.”

That would be against fellow unbeaten co-leader Alaska on Wednesday at the Big Dome, a titanic clash which could impact both team’s run this conference following equally hot starts.

Asked whether the Beermen, who trailed by two points in the last seven minutes to an opponent that has lost its last two games, are ready for the amazing Aces, whose 41-point victory over the Meralco Bolts stands as their season’s highlight, Austria didn’t flinch.

“We can beat any team naman if we can follow our game plan to the letter,” said Austria, whose strategy against the Energy turned upside down after big men Doug Kramer (sprain) and Rico Maierhofer (bruised knee) got hit with injuries.

“Nasira yung rotation namin nong nabawasan big men namin; walang pamalit ke June Mar (Fajardo),” Austria said. “Buti na lang pumutok si Marcio (Lassiter). Also to the credit of coach Koy (Banal, the Barako mentor), iniba niya lahat yung outlook kaya yung na-scout namin, di nangyari.”

Lassiter, held down to two points the last time out, poured 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, providing more than adequate support for red-hot Arwind Santos, who torched the Energy for 27 points on 9 of 10 shooting from the field, with four three-pointers.

“Arwind is our leader and he was in total focus,” said Austria. “I told him to initiate something na kanina and to show his leadership.”

Santos hit a 3-pointer that made it 76-73 at the height of a Barako Bull rampage, and Lassiter nailed one that sparked a 9-1 run to fizzle out the Energy’s remaining resistance.

Fajardo, SMB’s 6-foot-10 center, was hammered around the basket alternately by Mick Pennisi and Jondan Salvador but managed 18 points with 11 rebounds in 40 minutes inside.

SAN MIGUEL 103 – Santos 27, Lassiter 20, Fajardo 18, Mercado 12, Lutz 8, Omolon 8, Tubid 3, Semerad 2, Ross 2, Hubalde 2, Chua 1, Pascual 0.

BARAKO 89 – Miranda 17, Lastimosa 12, Intal 12, Fortuna 11, Lanete 10, Garcia 8, Pennisi 6, Paredes 4, Wilson 4, Salvador 2, Marcelo 2, Pascual 1, Salva 0.

Quarters: 26-24, 43-45, 70-68, 103-89