SAN Miguel Beer overcame its toughest test yet in its grand slam bid, frustrating Barangay Ginebra, 107-103, on Sunday night to rebuild its momentum in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
The Beermen banked on a hot start before fending off an expected fighback by the defending champion Gin Kings late in the much-awaited matchup that only lived up to its billing at crunch time to the delight of over 11,000 fans who trooped the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Terrence Watson lived up to lofty expectations in his debut, Chris Ross continued to flash his postseason form, Arwind Santos sustained his hot shooting, before Alex Cabagnot put on the finishing touches for the Beermen, who won back-to-back games and improved to 5-3 overall.
Equally important was the Beermen halting the Gin Kings’ seven-game winning streak after dealing their sister squad only its second loss in nine games.
“Before this game, I was worried, because we’re struggling in our game and Ginebra is playing really well,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “Maybe nanalo kami dahil they played a hard game last Friday, and a one-day preparation is not enough.”
“I have to commend all the players, even those in the bench…they really showed what they had,” he added. “I’m so proud of them.”
Watson registered 28 points, 17 boards, four assists, two blocks, and one steal as the new SMB import seemed to finally be what the doctor ordered for the Beermen after replacing the unimpressive Terik Bridgeman.
Santos stayed hot from long distance, draining three triples and 10 of his 16 shots overall for a total 23 points, while Ross added 20 points, five assists, four boards, four steals, and only one turnover in over 42 minutes orchestrating the well-oiled SMB offense.
But it was Cabagnot who brought the Beermen home as he fired 11 of his 16 points in the payoff period, including a right-wing jumper over Mark Caguioa that regained a double-digit, 103-93 lead for the Beermen after the Gin Kings came closest at eight points after trailing by as many as 26 points.
Japeth Aguilar led six Gin Kings in double-digit scoring, although import Justin Brownlee was held to a conference-low 14 points on 7-of-18 shooting, missing all his three three-point attempts.
The balanced local effort from both squads overshadowed the gigantic matchup between June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter, the Cebuano rivals who met for the first time since the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup.
SMB 107 – Watson 28, Santos 23, Ross 20, Cabagnot 16, Fajardo 10, Lassiter 7, Rosser 3, Heruela 0, De Ocampo 0
GINEBRA 103 - Aguilar J. 18, Tenorio 17, Slaughter 16, Brownlee 14, Ferrer 11, Thompson 7, Caguioa 3, Mercado 2, Aguilar R. 0, Taha 0
Quarterscores: 30-16, 56-33, 87-65, 107-103