SAN MIGUEL nearly lost grip of a 17-point second quarter lead before surviving defending champion Indonesia Warriors, 70-66, on Friday to clinch the top spot in the Asean Basketball League at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Val Acuna aided the Beermen in erecting a 40-23 edge in the second period by hitting five triples in the first half to finish with an ABL career-high 15 points.
But the home team still needed two free throws from veteran Asi Taulava in the final 7.6 seconds to clinch the victory and seal for the Beermen homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.
The win was the 13th straight for San Miguel, giving the Philippine team a 16-3 (win-loss) slate overall.
But the Beermen, who gained a three-game lead over the Warriors (13-6), had to endure a shaky finish to clinch homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.
“I think it’s a test of character,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria of the close win. “I’m not that happy but a win is a win. We were leading but slowly they came to within one point and we were almost beaten.”
The reigning champions threatened the Beermen at 67-66 with a minute to play in the fourth following a three-pointer by Jerick Canada.
Taulava’s two free throws made it a three-point San Miguel lead, giving the Warriors one final chance at a game-tying three-pointer.
But Canada missed on the potential game-tying triple, and Paulo Hubalde settled the final score by splitting his two free throws for the Beermen with one-tenth of a second left.
Acuna buried a triple near the end of the second that put the Beermen on top by 17 at the half.
But the champions just won’t go down without a fight.
Trailing 52-65 midway in the fourth, the Warriors rallied behind Stanley Pringle and Canada.
Held to only three points in the opening half, Pringle scored five straight to spark the Warriors’ endgame run, while Canada hit three straight three-pointers that had Indonesia suddenly breathing on the neck of the Beermen, 66-67.
The Warriors, however, fell short after digging themselves too deep in the first half.
For a while, the game appeared headed at repeating the same outcome of the first encounter between the Warriors and Beermen this season when Indonesia came back from 13 points down to beat San Miguel in overtime, 98-96, three months ago.
Indonesia raced to an early 7-2 lead, but San Miguel answered with 17 straight unanswered points to close the first period with a 19-7 lead.
Brian Williams had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Beermen, while Taulava added 12 and nine rebounds.
Steven Thomas led the visitors with 18 points and 15 rebounds, even as Pringle had 15 and Mario Wuysang with 13.
San Miguel (70) - Acuna 15, B. Williams 15, Taulava 12, Hubalde 8, J. Williams 8, Avenido 6, Thiele 2, Cawaling 2, Rizada 2, Fortuna 0.
Indonesia (66) - Thomas 18, Pringle 15, Wuysang 13, Canada 9, Daniels 9, Prihantono 2, Sitepu 0, Smith 0.
Quarterscores: 19-7; 42-27; 56-48; 70-66.