REMINDED of the coveted reward every player dreams of, San Miguel Beer used it as motivation.
Hours after receiving their championship rings for ruling the last all-Filipino conference, the defending champion Beermen shut down Meralco, 101-85, to gain a piece of the early lead in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen drew solid contribution from all around as five players, led by Alex Cabagnot, scored in double digits to pull away late and frustrate a rejigged Bolts side that drew an impressive pro debut from Chris Newsome and saw the first game of Jimmy Alapag back from retirement.
“Meralco is a tough team to beat right now because almost complete yung lineup nila. We couldn’t take them for granted,” Beermen coach Leo Austria said. But with the experience of my players, we prevailed.”
SMB thus notched a second straight win, following up a 97-86 win over GlobalPort in Davao last Saturday.
Cabagnot tallied 18 points, all but two in the fourth quarter where the Beermen turned a nip-and-tuck battle into a rout despite June Mar Fajardo putting up a relatively quiet performance with 14 points and 12 boards.
Newsome finished with a team-high-tying 14 points, including two on a highlight slam dunk over Arwind Santos early in the third quarter, where the Bolts stayed toe to toe with the Beermen until the defending champions started their game- breaking run.
Trailing, 60-55, with a little over seven minutes left, the Beermen banked on a 17-7 run to grab the lead heading into the fourth quarter, where they slowly pulled away.
SMB 101 – Cabagnot 18, Santos 16, Fajardo 14, Lassiter 12, Ross 11, Arana 7, Espinas 6, Lutz 6, Tubid 5, De Ocampo 3, Reyes 3, Heruela 0
MERALCO 85 – Hodge 14, Newsome 14, Dillinger 10, Faundo 9, Nabong 9, Al Hussaini 8, David 7, Alapg 6, Hugnatan 6, Caram 2, Buenafe 0
Quarterscores: 15-23, 47-47, 71-67, 101-85