Defending champion San Miguel Beer and Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX) won over separate foes on Wednesday to stay unbeaten in two games in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
The San Miguel Beermen with a strong second half game crushed the Meralco Bolts 101-85.
Alex Cabagnot scored 18 points, Arwind Santos had 16 points and 10 rebounds while Marcio Lassiter posted 12 points to lead the Beermen.
June Mar Fajardo finished with 14 points plus 12 rebounds while Chris Ross contributed 11 points plus five assists also for San Miguel Beer.
Meralco enjoyed a 23-15 lead by the end of first period but San Miguel Beer catched up to bring the score to 47-all at halftime.
The Beermen also scored more triples (5-1) and free throws (8-4) than the Bolts in the first half.
The Beermen sustained their offensive by the start of second half with Santos scoring two jumpers and a three-pointer but the Bolts put up a tight battle closing the gap by the end of the third quarter 71-67.
San Miguel Beer finally sealed the win during the fourth quarter.
“Meralco is a tough team to beat so I’m happy with this win. We prepared a lot during the off-season because you can’t take any team for granted here in this league. We are all excited this season,” said SMB coach Leo Austria during the post-game interview.
Cliff Hodge and Rookie Chris Newsome scored 14 points each for Meralco.
Before the start of second game, PBA Commissioner Chito Narvasa gave the San Miguel Beermen their championship rings in a ceremony.
In the other game, the NLEX Road Warriors blasted the Barako Bull Energy 93-85.
Center Paul Asi Taulava finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Mac Cardona had 12 points, guard Kevin Alas 11 points while forward Sean Anthony posted a career-high 19 rebounds on top of 11 points for the Road Warriors.
“We are happy that we got this win two-straight, we haven’t done this before and credit to my players for playing strong in the second half. It seems, we wanted to finish the game right away,” NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez told reporters during a post-game interview.
“During halftime, I told them we have to make one stop at a time and we came back right away from seven points down from our defense. Guys stepped up and hopefully we can continue this. Hopefully we’ll not have the same bad start we had the first two games,” he added.
“It’s a long conference and we are going to face the big teams in our next games, we just have to be ready.”
Barako Bull outscored NLEX 25-18 in the first quarter behind the hard work of forward Willie Wilson and veteran Mick Pennisi.
The Road Warriors narrowed the gap to 36-39 with 2:12 to go after Cardona’s basket but the Energy answered with a 6-2 run highlighted by JC Intal’s fast break dunk to keep Barako’s 45-38 lead at halftime.
NLEX maintained its impressive play until the final canto to seal the win.