San Miguel quick to shake off rust after long layoff, deals Meralco its first loss
SMb guard Chris Ross drives against three Meralco defenders. Jerome Ascano

SAN Miguel Beer picked up from where it left off as it sent Meralco crashing back to earth with a 99-92 decision for a rousing start to its PBA Commissioner’s Cup campaign on Sunday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Coming off a layoff after their Philippine Cup conquest, the Beermen shook off the rust in the second half where they turned the game around to pull away late to hand the Bolts their first loss in five games.

That left Alaska alone atop the standings, keeping their unblemished record intact with a 105-102 victory over Rain or Shine earlier.

June Mar Fajardo, Alex Cabagnot, and Marcio Lassiter led SMB’s late surge, while Charles Rhodes complemented the locals well as he import tallied 22 points, 12 boards, two blocks, and one steal in his debut.

“I never thought we’d be playing like this,” SMB coach Leo Austria admitted. “I expected we would be sluggish.”

“Everybody was rusty at the start, but because of our experience in the championship, we’re able to take care of the situation,” he added.

Fajardo registered 24 points, including two on a breakaway layup that gave the Beermen their biggest lead at 12 points, 95-83, and completed a 27-point turnaround. The reigning MVP finished with 12 boards, two assists, two blocks, and one steal in 36 minutes.

Cabagnot added 23 points and missed a double-double by just one assist, along with four boards, and two steals as the veteran playmaker punctuated his impressive play with a one-handed slam to the delight of the crowd.

Lassiter chipped in 16 points, while Arwind Santos was the other player to reach double-figure scoring with 12 points along with six boards in 20 minutes.

Alex Stepheson tallied a team-high-tying 21 points and 26 boards, while Baser Amer sustained his fine play with 16 points, eight assists, and four rebounds in a losing effort this time.


The scores:

SMB 99 – Fajardo 24, Cabagnot 23, Rhodes 22, Lassiter 16, Santos 12, Ross 2, Espinas 0, Heruela 0, Tubid 0

MERALCO 92 – Dillinger 21, Stepheson 21, Amer 16, Newsome 9, Nabong 8, Caram 6, Hugnatan 4, Uyloan 3, Chua 2, Daquioag 2, Grey 0

Quarters: 19-17, 35-46, 64-64, 99-92

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos