By REYNALD MAGALLON
Cameron Clark and CJ Perez took the wind out of NorthPort’s sails in the final two minutes and coasted to a 145-132 victory to get back on winning track in the 2023 PBA Governors’ Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday on Feb. 15.
Clark and Perez sparked a crucial 9-0 run in the waning minutes which proved to be the finishing kick the Beermen needed to finally shake off a hard-fighting Batang Pier side and improve to a 6-1 record in the standings and formally enter their names in the playoffs.
The SMB import continued to show that he can be a potent offensive weapon by finishing with his PBA career-high of 44 points to go along with nine rebounds and seven assists.
June Mar Fajardo bounced back from the dismal performance with a double-double of 29 points and 13 rebounds while Perez was steady as usual with 24 points. Marcio Lassiter added 16 points assists while Simon Enciso orchestrated the Beermen’s vaunted offense with 13 assists.
Despite the big number from the usual suspects from SMB, NorthPort still hung tough and cut the deficit down to just five, 125-130, and even climbed back from a huge 18-point deficit behind the hot hands of Arvin Tolentino and import Kevin Murphy.
That was when Clark and Perez took over for the Beermen with the former triggering the rally with a fadeaway jumper before the latter scored on back-to-back baskets in transition. Lassiter then nailed a left wing triple which capped the pivotal run.
Tolentino finished with career-high 32 points built on six triples while Murphy added 39 on a much more efficient shooting with a 15-of-30 clip as compared to his first game with the Batang Pier where he needed to take 41 shot attempts.
SAN MIGUEL 145 – Clark 44, Fajardo 29, Perez 24, Lassiter 16, Manuel 12, Cruz 9, Bulanadi 5, Enciso 3, Tautuaa 3, Brondial 0, Ross 0.
NORTHPORT 132 – Murphy 39, Tolentino 32, Bolick 16, Zamar 14, Calma 11, Chan 9, Caperal 4, Ayaay 4, Munzon 3, Balagasay 0, Taha 0.
QUARTERS: 40-36, 72-67, 108-96, 145-132.