MARCIO Lassiter sank the game-winner with 7.1 seconds left to lift San Miguel Beer to a 78-77 victory over an undermanned Rain or Shine side at the kick-off leg of the Liga ng Bayan PBA preseason on Friday night in Angeles City, Pampanga.
The Elasto Painters had an opportunity to snatch the victory, but Jonathan Uyloan’s floater missed the mark, allowing the Beermen to escape with the win before a jampacked crowd at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
Rain or Shine played without veterans Ryan Arana, Gabe Norwood, Paul Lee, Jeff Chan, Jeric Teng and Jireh Ibanes, allowing rookies Kevin Alas, Jericho Cruz, Cody Tesoro and Kevin Espinosa to get more playing time.
On the other hand, the Beermen, now mentored by comebacking PBA coach Leo Austria, played without reigning league MVP June Mar Fajardo, who is currently part of the Gilas Pilipinas team that will be playing in the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea late this month.
Beau Belga, who like Norwood, Lee, and Chan are part of the Gilas pool, suited up for the Elasto Painters.
But San Miguel had plenty of weapons at its disposal, relying on veterans led by Chris Lutz, Arwind Santos and Solomon Mercado before Lassiter came through with the endgame heroics off a defensive lapse by Rain or Shine.
Hopes are high for the Beermen to perform better under Austria, who is coming in to replace Todd Purves, San Miguel’s active consultant during the last two conferences this past season.