MACAU — In the end, the Liaoning one-two punch of Lance Stephenson and Salah Mejri was just too much to overcome for San Miguel in their semifinals showdown in the East Asia League Terrific 12 on Saturday night.
The Flying Leopards whipped the Beermen 111-89 as Stephenson and Mejri, both former NBA players accounted for half of the CBA ballclub's total output.
Stephenson poured in 35 points while the 7-foot-2 Mejri had 21 in the runaway win.
The two also combined for 21 of the team's total of 44 rebounds.
Their deadly tandem obviously wasn't lost on the Beermen.
"It's very obvious Lance Stephenson is really a high caliber player It's hard to contain him," admitted coach Leo Austria.
"At 7-foot-2, we couldn't match up with his size," said Von Pessumal of Mejri, who was part of the Tunisian team that beat Gilas Pilipinas in the last FIBA World Cup.
Austria said the Beermen tried to keep in step with the Flying Leopards and actually even had the lead, 28-26 as Pessumal scored eight straight points bridging the first and second quarters.
Then Stephenson and Mejri took charge as the CBA side went on a 9-0 run to regain control, 35-28, and never looked back.
“We tried to match them punch by punch, but it was too much when Lance and Mejri rolled to the basket and kick-outs to their three-point shooters. You just have to get your hands up and hope thy miss,” said Pessumal.
San Miguel’s woes were then compounded by its failure to protect both ball and possession after giving up 15 turnover points and 20 second chance points, noted Austria.
Despite bombing out in the finals race, the Beermen were proud of how far they’ve come in the tournament which serves as San Miguel’s first international foray as a team.
“We’re still very proud of our team despite the lack of players, we’re able to perform well in the tournament,” said Austria as the team played without injured starters June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter.
Although the team fell short of bidding for the championship, Austria nonetheless hopes San Miguel was able to give back a little joy to the huge Filipino crowd which never waned in its support not only to the Beermen but the other PBA teams which competed in Blackwater and TnT Katropa.
“We’re proud of our team because we’re able to give something back to the (Filipino) community,” he said.