ANTIPOLO – Chico Lanete shied away from a free throw last time, but not from a crucial three-pointer on Sunday night.
The veteran playmaker hit the go-ahead triple as San Miguel Beer delivered when it mattered to frustrate Magnolia, 77-76, at the Ynares Center and get back on the winning track in the PBA Philippine Cup.
The Beermen fought back from 16 points down, turning it into a nip-and-tuck battle in the payoff period before proving steadier down the stretch to hack out their sixth win in seven games to regain the top spot.
SMB also snapped the Hotshots’ five-game win streak to supplant their victims from their perch after dealing them their second loss in eight games.
“Magnolia was very determined to beat us,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “We’re shocked with the kind of defense they showed. Parang na-preserve nila ang energy nila.”
“But we were able to focus and the composure of our players was there,” he added. “We’re used to this.”
The Beermen fell into a 56-40 hole in the third quarter against a Hotshots side that was supposed to be weary playing in its second game in three days, but looked full of energy in their pressure defense that held SMB to a dismal 31.2-percent shooting (24-of-77) overall.
But it was SMB that had more gas in the tank at crunch time, hitting the shots that counted the most, none bigger than the one Lanete knocked down from beyond the arc that put them ahead, 73-71, with a minute and 34 seconds left in the game.
Lanete, stepping up in the absence of injured starter Alex Cabagnot, finished with 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from deep, on top of four boards, four assists, and four steals in 22 minutes as a starter.
June Mar Fajardo anchored the Beermen with 19 points, 21 rebounds, two blocks, and the all-important assist to Lanete’s lead-taking triple, while Chris Ross chipped in 15 points, eight boards, four assists, and three steals in 38 minutes.
Mark Barroca led the Hotshots with 21 points, five boards, two steals, and one blocks in 32 minutes that went for naught.
SMB 77 – Fajardo 19, Ross 15, Lanete 14, Lassiter 12, Santos 11, Rosser 6, Semerad 0, Agovida 0, Heruela 0, Mamaril 0, Pessumal 0
MAGNOLIA 76 – Barroca 21, Sangalang 13, Melton 10, Jalalon 8, Ramos 7, Pingris 5, Dela Rosa 4, Reavis 4, Simon 2, Pascual 2, Herndon 0
Quarterscores: 21-20, 34-44, 52-60, 77-76