Drawing inspiration, ironically, from a team they could perhaps meet in the finals, the San Miguel Beermen added to the fast-growing comeback theme of the PBA Governors’ Cup semifinal series.
Marcio Lassiter and Arizona Reid each had 22 points and foul-plagued Junemar Fajardo slogged his way to 20 with 10 rebounds as SMB rallied from 24 points down in the first half to turn back Rain or Shine, 101-95, last night in the opener of their best-of-5 semis at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Game 2 is tomorrow, 5 p.m., also at the Big Dome, with Beermen coach Leo Austria endlessly thankful having tuned in to Game 1 of the Alaska-Star series last Wednesday where the Aces came back from 18 points in the second quarter to beat the Hotshots, 97-91.
“This is unbelievable,” said Austria. “At that exact moment when we trailed by 24, all I can think of was the game last night. Meron mga similarities e.”
The ending, most especially.
Outscoring the Elasto Painters, 34-19, in the third quarter – exactly the same score at the same period for Alaska 24 hours earlier – the Beermen went on to wrest the lead behind Lassiter, Reid and Alex Cabagnot, whose 3-pointer tied the game, 77-all, before Reid, the former ROS import, nailed another 3 for 80-79 going to the final 12 minutes.
A flagrant one foul call on Wendell Mckines, who rapped Ronald Tubid at the back of the head in the last three minutes of the third period, forced the ROS import to bench for three minutes and SMB, switching to the zone to counter ROS’ mismatch plays against Fajardo, pounced on the situation.
With the score tied, 95-all, Lassiter and Reid hit back-to-back baskets and Arwind Santos capped the decisive run by swatting away a 3-point attempt by Jeff Chan.
It was all ROS in the first half, however.
SMB beheld Rain or Shine as its deadliest in the first half, with McKines bulldozing bodies from under the basket and Paul Lee putting on a shooting exhibition for the benefit of Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin who was at sideline.
McKines muscled his way to 22 points and 13 rebounds in the first 24 minutes while Lee, who brushed aside Arizona Reid in one ankle-breaking crossover move and Ronald Tubid with a step-back 3-pointer reminiscent of a certain Golden State Warriors player during the recent NBA Finals, had 12 with two triples.
ROS shot 54 percent in the first quarter in opening a 34-19 lead on the way to a 24-point advantage (43-19) as the Beermen went scoreless in the first three minutes of the second period, Junemar Fajardo picked up his third foul and Tubid negated his own basket by grabbing at the rim and drawing an offensive interference call.
Fajardo limped to the bench with two quick fouls six minutes into the game and his absence, compounded by the Beermen’s 2 of 11 shooting from 3-point range, combined to fuel the Elasto Painters’ early surge.
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo returned to start the second quarter, shrugged off his third foul and had 14 points, along with Marcio Lassiter, as SMB, going to a zone defense in the closing minutes of the half, used a 9-point run to come within 12 before Raymond Almazan converted two free throws that made it 60-46 at the intermission.
Already hobbled by an injury suffered by forward Jervy Cruz in their home where a big TV set reportedly fell on his big toe, ROS almost lost its starting center after Beau Belga twisted his right ankle defending against Fajardo with 3:11 left in the first half.
Belga crashed to the floor in pain and left for the locker room ahead of his teammates. He returned however for the second half.
SAN MIGUEL 101 – Lassiter 22, Reid 22, Fajardo 20, Cabagnot 15, Santos 13, Tubid 5, Lutz 2, Espinas 2, Ross 0.
RAIN OR SHINE 95 – McKines 33, Lee 19, Belga 12, Almazan 10, Ibanes 7, Chan 7, Uyloan 5, Tiu 2, Norwood 0, Cruz Jericho 0, Arana 0, Quinahan 0.
Quarters: 19-34, 46-60, 80-79, 101-95