San Miguel Beer banked on its balance scoring to shake off the pesky Rain or Shine side, 99-93, and grab the solo lead in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday, June 29.
Six players scored in twin digits for the mighty Beermen led by CJ Perez who anchored the offensive attack in the final frame to create the much needed separation against the Elasto Painters and improve to a league-best 5-1 record in the standings.
Perez followed up his triple-double performance against Converge with a 21-point output on top of five assists and four rebounds. Marcio Lassiter had 16 points while Jericho Cruz and Simon Enciso added 14 and 12 markers, respectively.
June Mar Fajardo only had 10 points across his name but pulled down 16 boards on top of career-high seven assists.
After a pair of lopsided victories, San Miguel head coach Leo Austria was elated to see his Beermen prevail in a grind out game which according to him can develop the team’s character.
“This game, a tight game, it could develop a lot of character sa team. We’re learning how to win in a tight game. Before, alam namin kung papaano manalo but a lot of original players are not (anymore) on our team and we have a lot of injured players,” said Austria who also lauded the performance of his bench players who provided quality minutes for the team.
“I’m so happy for those players na coming off the bench na we seldom see on the court na nag-step up kahit na hindi sila umi-score but yung energy nila enough na iyon to relieve yung mga players an alam natin na starter and finisher,” he added.
Jewel Ponferrada paced Rain or Shine with 20 points while Leonard Santillan added 18 which all went down the drain as the Elasto Painters’ woes continued with a fifth straight loss for a 1-5 standing.
Rain or Shine hung tough with SMB up until the final quarter when San Miguel created a 10-point cushion, 93-83, following consecutive baskets from Perez, Cruz and Fajardo.
The Elasto Painters tried to mount a comeback behind the efforts of Mike Nieto and Ponferrada, cutting the lead down to just five, 95-90, with 1:19 left in the game.
Fajardo however collared two huge rebounds in the waning minutes which led to a perfect assist to Cruz who scored on a short stab. The 6-foot-10 big man, after attracting the defense in their next play, issued another perfect pass to Brondial for a layup which sealed the deal for the Beermen.