San Miguel flips switch after sluggish start to deny also-ran Blackwater of a positive exit
SMB import Charles Rhodes throws down a two-handed dunk. Jaime Campos

THE real San Miguel Beer showed up in the second half as it frustrated Blackwater, 124-113, to solidify its bid for a twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

The Beermen flipped the switch after a sluggish start, needing just four minutes at the start of the third quarter to erase an early 16-point deficit before pulling away for good in the payoff period.

Charles Rhodes sparked the second-half surge, finishing with 32 points, highlighted by a handful of fancy slams, and missed a double-double by just one rebound in just 25 minutes of play, while June Mar Fajardo added 28 points and seven boards.

The Beermen registered their eighth win in 10 games to move closer to a top-two finish, while denying the eliminated Elite of finishing their campaign on a high note after suffering their ninth loss in 11 games.

“That game was the scariest game I saw this season,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “But they refused to be beaten by Blackwater, because in the playoffs, everybody is on their feet.”

“This is a learning lesson for us that we cannot take any team for granted,” he added.

After all, the Beermen allowed the Elite to score a whopping 40 points in the second quarter to build a 72-56 lead at the half.

But the Beermen wasted little time in turning it up a notch as they started the third quarter on an 18-2 run that knotted the count and turned it into a see-saw battle before breaking away in the fourth quarter, where they outscored the Elite, 34-17.

Marcio Lassiter added 21 points, an impressive eight steals, six rebounds, and four assists, while Chris Ross chipped in 14 points and 13 assists.

Arwind Santos contributed 13 points and eight boards as he conspired with Gabby Espinas, who added 10 points, four boards, and four assists, in leading the bench mob.

Greg Smith registered 21 points and 22 caroms, but the hulking import committed 11 errors for the Elite, who drew inspiration from Poy Erram as the Blackwater star slotman played for the first time in nine months after recovering from an ACL injury.

The scores:

SMB 124 – Rhodes 32, Fajardo 28, Lassiter 21, Ross 14, Santos 13, Espinas 10, Cabagnot 6, Tubid 0, Reyes 0, Heruela 0

BLACKWATER 113 – Smith 21, Digregorio 16, Canaleta 16, Cruz 16, Pinto 11, Cervantes 10, Sena 8, Aguilar 7, Gamalinda 5, Buenafe 3, Pascual 0, Erram 0

Quarterscores: 30-32, 56-72, 90-96, 124-113

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos