ANTIPOLO – San Miguel Beer survived its first real test in the form of Meralco, hacking out a 103-97 victory on Wednesday night to build some momentum heading into the holiday break of the PBA Philippine Cup.
The defending champion Beermen built a sizeable lead that the Bolts almost erased with a couple of fightbacks, before SMB held on, giving the fans a treat after a blowout first game.
June Mar Fajardo and Alex Cabagnot spearheaded the attack of the Beermen who registered a second straight win to gain a piece of the early lead with NLEX.
The Beermen also handed the Bolts their first loss after the retooled squad started the season with a loss and proved to be a tough matchup for the SMB.
“We’re just thankful that we ended the year with a bang,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “This will motivate us to play better.”
Cabagnot pumped in a game-high 29 points, seven boards, and four assists without committing a single turnover in almost 40 minutes of play, while Fajardo added 26 points, nine boards, one assist, and one steal in over 37 minutes.
Marcio Lassiter was also on target, draining four triples that comprised most of his 18 points that went with five rebounds, and three assists, while Von Pessumal was the other SMB player in double-digit scoring with 11 markers, five boards, and one assist in 22 minutes off the bench.
Chris Ross put up an all-around performance, tallying nine points, eight rebounds, and seven assists, against five turnovers, while Arwind Santos chipped in eight points and 10 caroms.
Despite SMB’s core players delivering as usual, the Bolts still managed to put up a fight, pulling to within a point, 71-72, after a Reynel Hugnatan trey late in the third.
Mike Tolomia led the Bolts with 21 points off the bench, the last three markers from beyond the arc that pulled his team to within five points, 97-102 with 38.9 seconds left.
The Bolts would’ve inched even closer, only for Nino Canaleta’s three-point attempt in their next possession to go in and out with nine ticks to go.
SMB 103 — Cabagnot 29, Fajardo 26, Lassiter 18, Pessumal 11, Ross 9, Santos 8, Mamaril 2, Lanete 0, Heruela 0, Ganuelas-Rosser 0
MERALCO 97 — Tolomia 21, Canaleta 17, Hugnatan 16, Newsome 13, Lanete 10, Bono 8, Amer 7, Baracael 2, Ballesteros 2, Caram 1, Faundo 0, Sedurifa 0, Salva 0
Quarterscores: 30-18, 59-41, 81-73, 103-97