ANTIPOLO –June Mar Fajardo stood up when he heard coach Leo Austria call his name midway through the payoff period, but the San Miguel Beer coach eventually decided against fielding back his superstar slotman when he saw his team in the middle of a run and enjoying a double-digit lead.
San Miguel hardly needed a dominant performance from Fajardo, who just recovered from a flu, yet still reasserted its mastery of Alaska with a 109-97 victory on Saturday to move closer to a Top Two spot in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs.
The Beermen pounced on the absence of Calvin Abueva and JVee Casio as they broke away from a tight contest in the second half to get back on the winning track, tallying their seventh win in nine games for a share of second spot with Ginebra.
Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, and Chris Ross took the cudgels among the locals and supported Charles Rhodes as the Beermen added to the frustrations of the Aces, who matched their longest slump in franchise history with a sixth straight loss after four wins.
“This was a very important game for us,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “Although it was a must-win game for Alaska, we needed to sweep our last few games to secure a Top Two spot.”
“And you can really see the players that they really wanted to win, although they were a bit relaxed in the end,” he added.
Cabagnot registered 25 points, 10 boards, six assists, and three steals in 39 minutes, while Rhodes added 24 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one block in 35 minutes.
Lassiter chipped in 19 points, five boards, four assists, two steals, and one blocks, while Ross facilitated the offense with aplomb, finishing with 18 points, 10 assists, three caroms, and two steals in 36 minutes.
Arwind Santos thrived in a bench role as usual, contributing 10 points and eight boards in 27 minutes, while Fajardo, who didn’t practice last two days, still suited up and contributed five points and six boards in 15 minutes off the bench.
Lassiter and Cabagnot knocked down a three-pointer apiece, before Ross finished a breakaway layup off his own steal that highlighted nine unanswered points that gave the Beermen their biggest lead at 22, 99-77 with a little over four minutes left in the game, before they eased off on the gas pedal.
Cory Jefferson led the Aces in a losing effort with 23 points and 13 boards.
SMB 109 – Cabagnot 25, Rhodes 24, Lassiter 19, Ross 18, Santos 10, Fajardo 5, Tubid 3, Espinas 2, Heruela 2, McCarthy 1, Semerad 0, Agovida 0, Reyes 0
ALASKA 97 - Jefferson 23, Banchero 22, Dela Cruz 12, Racal 9, Thoss 8, Manuel 6, Enciso 5, Pascual 4, Galliguez 3, Hontiveros 3, Mendoza 2, Exciminiano 0
Quarterscores: 25-24, 53-50, 84-68, 109-97