Fajardo, Santos spare San Miguel blushes in close call vs winless Mahindra
Arwind Santos stretches for a layup against Mahindra. Jerome Ascano

SAN Miguel Beer barely evaded the upset ax as it outlasted Mahindra, 94-91, in another tough test in its ongoing PBA Philippine Cup title defense on Sunday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The Beermen erased an early double-digit deficit against the only winless team in the tournament then proved steadier in the clutch as it hacked out their second straight come-from-behind win after surviving depleted Alaska last time.

June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, and Alex Cabagnot came through at crunch time with insurance charities to lead the Beermen, who improved to a 3-1 win-loss record, while handing the hapless Floodbuster their fourth straight loss.

Alex Mallari stood at the forefront of the Floodbuster’s upset bid with 21 points and eight boards, and could’ve extended the game another five minutes had he made his three-point attempt from the top of the key at the buzzer.

“This is a good lesson for us na we cannot underestimate any team,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “We’re lucky nanalo pa rin kami dito.”

“(But) next time, we cannot afford to have a game like this,” he added.

The Beermen got warned of an upset alert by the Floobuster, who established a 13-point lead in the first quarter, a cushion they nurtured until midway through the third when the Beermen turned the game around.

However, the Floodbuster, behind Mallari, Joseph Eriobu, and LA Revilla, kept it a nip-and-tuck affair and constantly gave themselves a chance to still pull off the improbable, going ahead, 88-85, after an Eriobu contested three-pointer with a little over two minutes remaining.

But Fajardo, who finished with 28 points and 15 boards in 38 minutes, retaliated with four straight points – a putback off a Marcio Lassiter miss and two free throws – to put SMB ahead for good.

 

The scores:

SMB 94 – Fajardo 28, Santos 18, Cabagnot 15, Tubid 10, Garcia 9, Lassiter 8, Ross 4, Espinas 2, Agovida 0, Reyes 0, McCarthy 0, De Ocampo 0

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MAHINDRA 91 – Mallari 21, Eriobu 17, Revilla 15, Escoto 10, Yee 8, Ballesteros 5, Digregorio 3, Guevarra 3, Teng 3, Paniamogan 2, Salva 2, Arana 2, Celda 0, Webb 0

Quarterscores: 26-15, 47-49, 71-66, 94-91

 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos