REIGNING MVP Arwind Santos and Fil-Am guard Chris Ross instigated San Miguel Beer’s furious late-game burst to beat a stubborn Rain or Shine side, 112-107, and book its third win in four starts in the PBA Commissioner's Cup during Wednesday night's lone game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Santos drained the go-ahead three-point shot, then added a pair of free throws to touch off a run of nine unanswered points by the Beermen in a one-minute span in the stretch run of the exciting match.
The win allowed San Miguel to score some measure of revenge after the Beermen were eliminated by the Elasto Painters, 4-1, in the semifinals of the last Philippine Cup.
The playoff exit prompted management to shake up the team’s coaching staff, installing longtime assistant Biboy Ravanes as the Beermen's new head coach, while giving American consultant Todd Purves a more active role with the ballclub.
Purves said even though the Beermen led by as many as 16 points in the third period, a big lead was never safe whenever they play Rain or Shine, knowing what the team and coach Yeng Guiao are capable of doing.
“They had led a number of times in the fourth quarter so many times. They were so resilient and mentally tough,” said Purves after the game. “I tip my hat to them. I always expect them to keep fighting till the end.”
Rain or Shine import Alex McLean had his best production so far with the team after finishing with 33 points, sparking the team’s valiant fourth-quarter comeback.
But Ross, who played for 40 minutes in place of injured starting guard Solomon Mercado (groin), combined with Santos to keep the Beermen together going home.
The 29-year-old Ross finished the game with a career-high 22 points to go along with 10 assists, five rebounds, and five steals in a solid all-around game.
The loss spoiled coach Yeng Guiao’s birthday celebration as he turned 55 .
Both squads shot the lights out from beyond the arc as the Beermen and Elasto Painters combined for a high 30 three-point shot conversions.
Import Kevin Jones led the Beermen with 33 points and 15 rebounds, while Santos and Marcio Lassiter added 19 apiece in a balanced scoring attack for San Miguel, which improved to a 3-1 card.
Rain or Shine dropped to 1-2.
San Miguel Beer (112) - Jones 33, Ross 22, Lassiter 19, Santos 19, Fajardo 11, Duncil 3 Tubid 3, Kramer 2, Maierhofer 0, Hubalde 0, Lutz 0.
Rain or Shine (107) - McLean 33, Lee 13, Belga 12, Chan 9, Arana 8, Almazan 8, Tiu 8, Norwood 8, Rodriguez 4, Uyloan 2, Teng 2, Cruz 0, Tang 0.
Quarterscores: 27-26; 56-51; 88-82; 112-107.