by Waylon GalvezManila, Philippines – With four injured key players, there was a sense of concern for San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria to start their title-retention campaign in the season-ending PBA Governors’ Cup on a good note.
That worry was quickly dismissed as the Beermen used a strong second half to hand newcomer Phoenix Fuel Masters their second defeat in as many games, 124-113, last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
AZ Reid, a two-time Best Import winner, came through with a big performance as he recorded 41 points and 10 rebounds to help SMB’s drive to repeat as champions this conference.
San Miguel is missing four key players in former PBA MVP Arwind Santos (knee), forward Gabby Espinas (knee), guard Chris Lutz (back spasm) and center Yancy de Ocampo (back spasm).
With the Beermen down, 93-84, with 3:43 to play in the third quarter, Reid scored nine points in a 13-0 run that gave them a 97-93 advantage entering the fourth period.
SMB’s scoring run bridged the final frame as Reid completed a three-point play before Brian Heruela buried a three-pointer that capped a 19-1 blitz – with the Fuel Masters’ single point coming from import Marcus Simmons’ free throw – for a 103-94 lead with 10:43 left.
“This game is really important, we want to have a good start,” said Austria, who pointed to their 0-2 start to start this conference last season before winning eight straight games in the first round.
Meanwhile, the management of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel is giving coach Tim Cone a freehand to choose a replacement after Paul Harris injured his right thumb during Saturday’s 93-81 victory over Globalport.
Ginebra governor Alfrancis Chua said yesterday that the team is in the process of looking for an import who will replace Harris, whose injury was described by Cone as a “compound fracture”.
“It’s up to the coaching staff to decide on the import that will replace Paul,” said Chua when contacted yesterday by Tempo. “They are now in the process of looking for the replacement.”
“Whatever the decision of the coaching staff, the management will just follow and try to make it possible to sign the replacement. We’re hoping to find one as soon as possible,” added Chua.
Cone has mentioned the possibility of bringing back Othyus Jeffers, Ginebra’s import in the Commissioner’s Cup.
SAN MIGUEL 124 – Reid 41, Fajardo 21, Cabagnot 20, Lassiter 12, Heruela 8, David 7, Tubid 5, Ross 4, Reyes 4, Araña 2, Semerad 0.
PHOENIX 113 – Simmons 28, Torres 19, Baguio 13, Cruz 13, Enciso 12, Hee 9, J. Wilson 7, Caperal 7, Pennisi 3, Buenafe 2, Lanete 0.
Quarters: 33-29; 64-69; 97-93; 124-113.