THE real San Miguel Beer showed up in the nick time to add to the frustrations of Kia with a 118-112 victory that formalized its entry in the playoffs of the PBA Governors’ Cup on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Beermen saw a gallant stand by the Picanto, erasing a deficit as many as 11 points, before proving steadier down the stretch to register their sixth win in nine games.
June Mar Fajardo showed he’s back in top form as he exploded for 41 points, just two shy of his career-high, on top of 17 boards to lead the fightback for the Beermen, who kept the Picanto winless with one game left in their campaign.
“It’s an ugly game for us. Everybody’s expecting us to do well,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “I think it’s a wake-up call for us. We can’t any team for granted because every team wants to beat us.”
After all, the Picanto threatened to pull off an upset, establishing their biggest lead at 67-56 halfway through the third quarter and staying within striking distance even when they lost their lead.
That forced Austria to field Fajardo the entire second half, and the three-time reigning MVP repaid it by scattering 20 of his output in the fourth quarter where he spearheaded another all-Filipino attack to turn the game around.
SMB import Terrence Watson finished with 16 points, 14 boards, four assists, and three blocks, but he played just the first three quarters as Austria had more trust in his cohesive local core.
Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross, Arwind Santos, and Alex Cabagnot all provided ample support for Fajardo as they scored in twin digits.
Cabagnot put on the finishing touches for the Beermen, scoring back-to-back touchdown layups, the first off a baseball feed from Lassiter that gave the Beermen a 116-112 lead with five seconds left.
The result spoiled an all-around performance from Kia import Geron Johnson, who fired 42 points, 10 boards, and missed a triple-double by just two rebounds that negated his 10 turnovers.
SMB 118 – Fajardo 41, Watson 16, Lassiter 16, Santos 15, Ross 15, Cabagnot 11, Tubid 2, Espinas 2, Heruela 0, Pessumal 0, Rosser 0
KIA 112 – Johnson 42, Yee 18, Corpuz 15, Paniamogan 14, Celda 9, Elorde 7, Salva 3, Camson 2, Ballesteros 2, Jaime 0, Deutchman 0
Quarterscores: 25-25, 45-50, 78-84, 118-112