Defending champion San Miguel Beer weathered Northern Luzon Expressway’s fourth quarter storm to escape with a 114-110 win and claim the first semifinals berth in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Governors’ Cup on Friday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Import Elijah Millsap finished with 39 points on 11-of-24 shooting in the field on top of 11 rebounds and three assists.
“I know from the start that this will not be an easy game for us,” San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria said during the postgame news conference. “This is a good lesson for us. We will not win a championship if we’ll not improve our defense.”
“I’m happy for Elijah (Millsap) because he’s willing to take over. Semifinals is not easy for any team. We will be waiting for the winner of Ginebra versus Alaska,” he added.
Millsap, the Beermen’s third import after Arizona Reid and Michael Singletary, notched 10 points in the third and 11 in the fourth canto.
“We were able to knockdown big shot after big shot during their rally. They’re able to close out by two or three points and they even took the lead. They were also a good team that’s why we tightened up the defense too,” Millsap told The Manila Times.
NLEX snatched the lead four times midway through the fourth period after trailing behind by 17 points, 63-46, in the first quarter. But the Beermen’s experience and tenacity carried them through crunch time eliminating NLEX in the Final Four race.
Center June Mar Fajardo posted 17 points, 13 rebounds and five assists while Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter contributed 14 points apiece. Arwind Santos scored 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks also for San Miguel Beer.
San Miguel Beer enjoyed a slim 24-23 advantage after the first quarter behind the effort of Millsap and Fajardo. The Beermen leaned on Lassiter’s two triples to extend the advantage to 63-48 at the half.
NLEX initiated a 34-23 run in the third period highlighted by the baskets of Sean Anthony and Garvo Lanete to close the gap, 86-82. Jonas Villanueva, who posted 11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, scored a triple resulting in his team grabbing the lead, 89-88, in the early going of the final frame.
But Millsap and Fajardo’s combined 17 points in the last period foiled NLEX’s comeback.
The Road Warriors ended the elimination round with a 5-6 win-loss record at No. 7 before losing to the Beermen.
Import Henry Bill Walker scored 45 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Road Warriors.
SAN MIGUEL 114 – Millsap 39, Fajardo 17, Lassiter 14, Cabagnot 14, Santos 11, Espinas 7, Tubid 6, Ross 4, De Ocampo 2.
NLEX 110 – Walker 45, Villanueva J. 17, Lanete 13, Taulava 13, Anthony 11, Villanueva E. 6, Khobuntin 3, Alas 2, Baracael 0, Monfort 0.
Quarter Scores: 24-23, 63-48, 86-82, 114-110