TYLER Wlikerson has been lighting up the scoreboards for San Miguel Beer right from the onset all the way to the playoffs of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Still, he put emphasis on the defense if the Beermen are to win a second straight championship this season.
The deadly import credited the great ‘D’ put up by the team when push came into shove during the pivotal final quarter of San Miguel’s sudden-death playoff against Star for a spot in the semifinals of the mid-season conference.
The Beermen held the Hotshots to just 12 points in the final 12 minutes of the match when they fought back from nine points down early in the period to pull off a 103-99 comeback victory on Wednesday night at the Araneta Coliseum.
The 27-year-old Wilkerson pumped in a game-high 46 points – including 31 in the first half – and 17 rebounds in the grindout victory, which he said would not have been possible had the Beermen not got their act on defense in the fourth quarter.
“We just kind of stay focused on playing defense, which was what we did today,” said the leading candidate for the conference’s Best Import award.
Star Hotshots coach Jason Webb acknowledged what the top import out of Marshall University said.
“Credit to San Miguel because they’re doing the things that you need to do to win as much as they have,” he said. “Tied in the last two minutes and just a couple of defensive rebounds that we weren’t able to clear and loose balls that we weren’t able to get. Andun na, konti na lang and that was anyone’s game.”
After nearly being toppled by the No. 8 ranked team, up next for top-seeded San Miguel is Rain or Shine, a unit that plays physical and can shoot the lights out on any given day.
Wilkerson, who is averaging a league-best 36.9 points and 14.0 rebounds per game, said it’s a must for the Beermen to play better defense if they are to get past the Elasto Painters and make the finals for the third straight time.
“That’s what we’ve got to do to win a championship. For us to win the next series, we have to play defense,” he said.
“We can’t really depend a lot on our offense. We’re scoring a lot of points, but we’re giving up a lot, too.”