LEO Austria found out it’s not so bad to turn to his bench once in a while.
Maximizing his starting unit all-conference long, the San Miguel Beer coach gave more time to his second unit that repaid his faith as the Beermen rolled to a 102-88 victory over TNT KaTropa on Friday night to tie the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals at one game apiece.
June Mar Fajardo and Chris Ross delivered as usual and led the starters, but it was the bench mob that gave the Texters a different look and helped turn the game around, negating TNT’s unprecedented 17 unanswered points to start the game.
Arwind Santos sparked the comeback, finishing with 16 points built around four triples in 21 minutes, while Gabby Espinas, David Semerad, and Brian Heruela also provided precious minutes for the Beermen, who atoned for their 104-102 loss in Game One.
“We’re happy we won despite a bad start,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “We thought it was going to be zero-two, but they showed they really wanted to win the game.”
Game Three of the best-of-seven series is on Sunday night also at the Big Dome.
Fajardo registered 22 points, 11 boards, two blocks, and one assist, while Ross added 20 points, nine assists, five rebounds, four steals, and one block. Alex Cabagnot chipped in 13 points, six assists, four boards, and one steal for the SMB starters, who, except for Marcio Lassiter (31 minutes, 17 seconds), had the luxury to play less than 30 minutes and get extra rest ahead of the more important games of the series.
Heruela played solid defense on Jayson Castro, who was limited to 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting in 22 minutes, while Semerad also made the most of his 15 minutes on the court for the SMB bench that also saw Arnold Van Opstal get playing time in the end.
The Beermen also found a defensive scheme to neutralize TNT import Joshua Smith, who was held to 11 points and six rebounds, although he dished out five assists in nearly 18 minutes of play after tallying 21 points – the last two on the game-winning hook, and nine boards in Game One.
Another Game One hero, Roger Pogoy, was scoreless in almost 19 minutes of play after scattering a career-high 27 markers in the series opener. Worse, the standout rookie wingman was ejected early in the third quarter after a questionable flagrant foul 2 following what looked a like a hit on Arwind Santos below the belt.
SMB 102 – Fajardo 22, Ross 20, Santos 16, Cabagnot 13, Lassiter 8, Rhodes 7, Espinas 6, Reyes 4, Agovida 2, Semerad 2, Tubid 2, Heruela 0, Van Opstal 0
TNT 88 – Castro 14, Semerad 12, Rosario 12, Smith 11, Rosales 9, Tautuaa 8, Carey 8, Williams 4, De Ocampo 3, Garcia 3, Hernandez 2, Nuyles 2, Tamsi 0, Golla 0, Pogoy 0
Quarterscores: 24-32, 52-43, 90-62, 102-88