SAN Miguel played like the four-time defending PBA Philippine Cup champion in dealing Phoenix a sound beating, 100-88, in the opener of their best-of-seven semifinals series Saturday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Beermen started Game One a little bit tentative, but there was no stopping them from unleashing their might once they got into their rhythm.
They outscored the Fuel Masters, seeing action in their first semifinals stint, 14-2 in a seven-minute stretch to turn a 29-29 deadlock into a 43-31 lead.
The defending champion never looked back from there to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
“We’re so focus especially the players. Everybody really wants to win,” said coach Leo Austria in his post-game interview.
Game 2 is set Monday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen however, have never lost in a best-of-seven series under Austria when winning Game 1, according to chief statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
Alex Cabagnot went 5-of-9 from three-point range to lead San Miguel with 26 points, Chris Ross had four triples for 14 points, the same output contributed by Marcio Lassiter.
June Mar Fajardo, who had a scary incident in the second quarter when he fell on the floor faced first, was held to just nine points and nine rebounds before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
The Fuel Masters trailed by as many as 49-73 but made a run in the final period to threaten at 89-82 on a jumper by Alex Mallari.
The Beermen however, were just too steady to lose their poise down the stretch run as they weathered the Phoenix rally.
“I told them we’re still ahead, don’t panic. I know you’ve been in this kind of situation. All you have to do is to sustain,” said Austria of what he told the Beermen during that searing Phoenix rally.
“With the experience of the team, they know what to do,” he added.
Matthew Wright led Phoenix with 22 points including 4-of-6 from downtown.
The loss put to naught the 18-point 21-rebound effort of Calvin Abueva, who went 5-fo-15 from the foul line though.
San Miguel (100) - Cabagnot 26, Ross 14, Lassiter 14, Standhardinger 12, Santos 9, Fajardo 9, Tubid 6, Romeo 5, Pessumal 5, Rosser 0, Nabong 0.
Phoenix (88) - Wright 22, Abueva 18, Jazul 11, Mallari 11, Revilla 7, Perkins 6, Chua 5, Marcelo 4, Intal 3, Kramer 1, Mendoza 0, Dennison 0.
Quarterscores: 21-27; 49-39; 81-59; 100-88.