Dragons show fangs on defense, survive SMB in semis opener

The Dragons are known for their offensive firepower but against an equally talented opponent, they just decided to show their defensive fangs.

Andrew Nicholson continues to be a force for Bay Area. (PBA Images)

Bay Area came through with the big plays down the stretch to cap a blazing comeback that enabled a 103-102 escape over San Miguel in the thrilling Game 1 of their best-of-five semifinals series in the 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the PhilSports Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 14.

The Dragons showed unwavering resolve battling from a huge 16-point deficit before pulling off defensive stops that led to two huge baskets from Hayden Blankley and Kobey Lam in the waning minutes to draw the series first blood.

Trailing by three, 102-99, with 50 ticks left on the clock, Bay Area tightened up its defensive screws and found a way to stop SMB’s vaunted offense which, all night long, had rode the hot hands of Terrence Romeo, Marcio Lassiter and CJ Perez.

Blankley first scored on a layup off a Bay Area timeout before the Dragons managed to keep the ball away from the hands of Perez, Lassiter and June Mar Fajardo in the ensuing play to force the Beermen to a hurried trey from Jericho Cruz.

Bay Area was then quick to pounce on the opportunity as Lam raced ahead to their front court for a layup that put the Dragons on top, 103-102. The PBA guest team then completed another crucial stop, bothering SMB import Devon Scott enough to miss a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer.

Andrew Nicholson remained solid for Bay Area with a double-double of 30 points and 15 rebounds but it was Zhu Songwei who kept the Dragons afloat even in the face of the massive third quarter run from the Beermen where they built the biggest lead, 83-67.

He finished with 19 points and seven assists while Blankley and Lam finished with 15 and 12 respectively.

Perez paced the Beermen with 24 points – seven of which allowed the Beermen to restore order after the Dragons took a 96-93 lead halfway through the final frame. Romeo, who also spearheaded a huge first half for SMB, finished with 21 while Lassiter fired 16.

Bay Area aims for a commanding 2-0 lead in Game 2 on Friday, Dec. 16.