SAN Miguel Beer got the wake-up call it needed for the playoffs as it avoided the upset axe of Kia, 108-106, to move on the verge of a twice-to-beat advantage in the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs.
Marcio Lassiter scored the game-tying three-pointer and the go-ahead stab off a nifty inbound feed from Chris Ross that spared the Beermen blushes after wasting a 26-point lead no thanks to a furious fightback by the Picanto.
The Beermen thus registered their eighth win in 10 games as the Picanto ended their campaign with their 10th loss in 11 games at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“Yung basketball sense nila (Lassiter and Ross), nandun, pero kung hindi nangyari yun, it could’ve been a disaster for us, and not a good sign heading into the playoffs,” SMB coach Leo Austria said.
“They thought it was a won game already. Everybody nag-relax,” he added.
The Beermen looked poised for a blowout victory as they established an 89-63 lead late in the third quarter, hardly missing the services of Gilas Pilipinas standout June Mar Fajardo and injured Alex Cabagnot.
But the Picanto had other plans.
Trying to finish a forgettable conference on a positive note, Kia mounted a rally in the payoff period that saw the Picanto outscore the Beermen, 35-17.
Glenn Khobuntin spearheaded the Picanto fightback, firing 11 of his 15 points in the payoff period, the last two on a layup that put the Picanto up, 106-103, with a little over a minute left.
That came after Rashawn McCarthy, one of the players SMB sent to Kia in a controversial offseason trade, proved to be a thorn in the side of his former as he scored the layup that gave his new a team a 104-103 lead with a 1:29 to go.
Lassiter, though, refused to be on the wrong end of an stunner as he knocked down a triple from the right corner off a second-chance possession to tie the game at 106, before scoring on that catch-and-shoot stab off a bounce pass from Ross to rescue the Beermen.
Lassiter finished with 22 points, built around five treys, fiver boards, three assists, and two steals in 35 minutes, while Arwind Santos led the Beermen with 27 points, 12 boards, five assists, two blocks, and one steal in 37 minutes.
Ross chipped in 10 assists, nine points, three rebounds, and two steals.
SMB 108 – Santos 27, Lassiter 22, Pessumal 11, De Ocampo 10, Heruela 9, Ross 9, Espinas 8, Vigil 5, Ganuelas-Rosser 5, Mamaril 2, Agovida 0, Lanete 0, Semerad 0
KIA 106 – Khobuntin 15, Corpuz 12, Gabriel 10, McCarthy 10, Yee 10, Cabrera 9, Celda 8, Camson 8, Tubid 7, Ababou 6, Jamon 5, Escoto 4, Lastimosa 2, Galanza 0, Sara 0
Quarterscores: 29-23, 61-41, 91-71, 108-106