Reigning champion San Miguel Beer banked on experience and superiority to survive Mahindra, 94-91, for third victory in four games in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen struggled in the early part of the game but got their bearing when it mattered most to avoid another biggest upset in this conference. San Miguel Beer absorbed its only loss in four games against Phoenix Petroleum, 85-92, last November 30 in Antipolo City.
Three-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo poured in 28 points on 12-of-13 shooting in the field plus 15 rebounds, while Arwind Santos finished with 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists and six blocks to lead the Beermen to a 3-1 win-loss record.
“This is a good lesson for us,” said San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria during the post game interview. “Everybody is competitive. We’re lucky we’ve won. Next time we cannot afford to have a game like this, so complacent. I was forced to use my key players for more than 35 minutes.”
Playmaker Alex Cabagnot scored 15 points while Ronald Tubid had 10 points and Ryan Roose Garcia contributed nine also for the Beermen.
“We are struggling. I would like to congratulate Mahindra. They know our weakness. I like to use a lot of players but with the game on the line, I cannot gamble.”
After a disastrous start in their first three games, the Floodbuster finally got it right taking a 26-15 lead after the first period behind the effort of Philip Paniamogan, Alex Mallari, Mike DiGregorio and rookie Russel Escoto.
Fajardo and Santos rebounded from a sluggish first quarter performance by scoring the needed points in the second period to come within striking distance before the halftime break.
Fajardo made four baskets in second period and Santos nailed a trey to cut Mahindra’s deficit to just 47-49 at the end of first half.
Fajardo led the Beermen in the first half with 16 points while Santos had 12.
San Miguel took a 71-66 lead at the end of third period but Mahindra fought so well in the payoff period making it an interesting game. Santos scored two free throws with only 5 seconds to go and Mallari’s game-tying three-pointer didn’t go in.
The Floodbuster remain winless in four games.
Alex Mallari finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, while rookie Joseph Eriobu had 17 points to lead Mahindra.