SAN Miguel Beer made a significant step in its title-retention bid as it held off NLEX, 114-110, on Friday night to advance to the semifinals of the PBA Governors’ Cup.
The Beermen squandered a 17-point lead, but regained their bearings when it mattered and withstood a late stand by the Road Warriors to eliminate their opponents without having to use their twice-to-beat advantage in their quarterfinal matchup.
Elijah Millsap spearheaded the attack with 39 points and 11 boards, while June Mar Fajardo, Alex Cabagnot, and Marcio Lassiter also delivered at crunch time for the Beermen, who will face the winner of the quarterfinal pairing between Ginebra and Alaska.
The result spoiled the splendid showing of NLEX import Bill Walker, who exploded for 45 points and 17 boards with less than a minute of rest as he refused to get distracted despite getting into heated moments with SMB star Arwind Santos.
“I knew from the start that it was not going to be an easy game for us,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “We have a history with NLEX. Since last season, talagang close game kami.”
“This is a lesson for us, because when we go up by (double digits), we have a tendency to relax,” he added after the Beermen saw the Road Warriors erase their 63-46 cushion.
SMB, though, regrouped on time as it banked on a late 10-2 surge, sparked by a three-point play by Millsap that gave the defending champion the lead for good at 103-100.
Lassiter punctuated the run left-wing three-pointer that gave them a 110-102 lead, enough gap to hold on after the Road Warriors made a last push that pulled them to within two points after two triples by Jonas Villanueva.
Fajardo tallied 17 points, 13 boards, and five assists, while Cabagot and Lassiter chipped in 14 points apiece. Santos was the other SMB player who scored in twin digits with 11 markers.
SMB 114 – Millsap 39, Fajardo 17, Lassiter 14, Cabagnot 14, Santos 11, Espinas 7, Tubid 6, Ross 4, De Ocampo 2
NLEX 110 – Walker 45, Villanueva J. 17, Lanete 13, Taulava 13, Anthony 11, Villanueva E. 6, Khobuntin 3, Alas 2, Baracael 0, Monfort 0
Quarterscores: 24-23, 63-48, 86-82, 114-110