By Jonas Terrado
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. — TNT KaTropa vs Phoenix
7 p.m. — NLEX vs NorthPort
San Miguel Beer set its title-retention bid despite the absence of June Mar Fajardo in motion after defeating Magnolia 94-78 to open the PBA Philippine Cup on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Five players scored in double figures as the Beermen produced a convincing victory in the start of their quest for a sixth consecutive crown sans Fajardo, who will miss the whole conference due to a fractured tibia on his right leg.
Among those who stood out in the victory were Mo Tautuaa and Terrence Romeo, who entered the season tasked to fill the huge void left by Fajardo.
Tautuaa showed why he was named the Most Improved Player during the Leo Awards by producing 20 points and 11 rebounds while Romeo had 19 points and seven assists.
Marcio Lassiter scored 17 points and five assists, Arwind Santos tallied 15 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and five steals, Alex Cabagnot scored 10 points and Chris Ross had four points, five rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
“Masaya ako dahil na-surprise ako sa nilaro ng mga bata, both offense and defense,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria, adding that there’s still plenty of things to be fixed moving forward.
“But we don’t have to be complacent because we have a lot of things to fix,” added Austria.
Paul Lee scored 19 points with five rebounds and three assists while Ian Sangalang and new addition Jackson Corpuz had 16 points each while combining for 27 boards but the Hotshots couldn’t get things going after trailing 8-0 at the start.
Magnolia did tie the score at 18-all at the end of the opening period but Lassiter scored seven and Romeo and Tautuaa made five apiece in the second to help SMB gain a 45-33 halftime lead.
Tautuaa’s basket gave SMB a commanding 60-37 lead with under eight minutes to go in the third before thwarting Magnolia’s comeback bid.
Magnolia got to within 61-54 on a layup by Jio Jalalon but San Miguel ended the third quarter with a 69-56 lead.
SAN MIGUEL 94 — Tautuaa 20, Romeo 19, Santos 18, Lassiter 17, Cabagnot 10, Ross 4, Escoto 3, Zamar 3, Pessumal 0, Gamalinda 0, Comboy 0.
MAGNOLIA 78 — Lee 19, Sangalang 16, Corpuz 16, Jalalon 8, Barroca 8, Simon 4, Dela Rosa 3, Melton 3, Banchero 1, Pascual 0.
Quarters: 18-18; 45-33; 69-56; 94-78.