Mahindra is unlikely PBA leader after claiming giant scalp of San Miguel
SMB defenders watch as Enforcers guard Paolo Taha rises for a shot. Jaime Campos

MAHINDRA couldn’t have made a bigger statement than it did on Wednesday as it stunned San Miguel Beer, 105-103, to sustain the best start in its young history in the PBA.

The Enforcers continued to make heads turn as they withstood a late rally by the defending champion Beermen to prevail in the rare presence of playing-coach Manny Pacquiao and remain unbeaten after three starts in the PBA Governors' Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

James White provided the energy, but it was Paolo Taha and Chito Jaime who hit the biggest baskets at crunch time to emerge as the unlikely heroes for the Enforcers, who grabbed the solo lead in the standings after dealing the Beermen their first loss in three games.

“There’s a reason why they are the defending champions, but our guys showed fortitude,” Enforcers lead assistant coach Chris Gavina said. “We approached this game, like every game, like it was a playoff game.”

The Enforcers saw their nine-point lead they built halfway through the payoff period disappear after allowing the Beermen score 10 unanswered points, capped by an Alex Cabagnot breakaway layup, setting the stage for a see-saw affair in the endgame.

But the Enforcers turned to Taha, who scored on a transition layup to give them the lead for good at 103-102 with one minute and 17 seconds left, before Jaime scored the insurance free throws — his only two points in the game — after drawing a foul in the next offensive possession.

The Beermen had a chance to inch closer anew, but June Mar Fajardo split his free throws, before failing to capitalize on a stop where they didn’t call a timeout and left with a desperation trey attempt by AZ Reid, whose game-high 43 points went for naught.

White tallied 34 points and 11 boards, while Nino Canaleta and Taha added 17 and 12 markers, respectively.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

The scores:

MAHINDRA 105 – White 34, Canaleta 17, Taha 12, Agovida 10, Ramos 9, Revilla 8, Pinto 6, Yee 3, Guinto 2, Jaime 2, Zandi 2, Ballesteros 0, Digregorio 0, Aguilar 0

SMB 103 – Reid 43, Cabagnot 15, Fajardo 13, Arana 11, Lassiter 10, Reyes 4, Tubid 3, Mabulac 2, Ross 2, David 0, De Ocampo 0, Heruela 0

Quarterscores: 28-27, 48-48, 81-74, 105-103

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos