The San Miguel Beermen earned their third straight win in the 2018 Philippine Cup after completing a come-from-behind victory over the TNT KaTropa, 88-76, at the University of San Agustin Gym in Iloilo City.
After trailing for most of the first three quarters, the reigning three-time champions fought fiercely in the final canto to maintain their unblemished record. They forced TNT to commit several turnovers down the stretch, which allowed them to steal the game.
“We’re so happy with this win against TNT because we see TNT as a team to beat this conference. We struggled in the first half especially in the first quarter,” coach Leo Austria said.
June Mar Fajardo finished with 20 points, six rebounds, and three blocks. Arwind Santos also had a productive afternoon as he put up a double-double of 15 points and 15 boards to go with four blocks.
The KaTropa were up by three entering the fourth but Alex Cabagnot, who ended up with 11 points, 12 rebounds, and two assists, sparked San Miguel’s fightback with a triple that tied the game at 61-all. TNT stayed within striking distance until Cabagnot knocked down another three-pointer at the two-minute mark that put them on top by seven, 81-74.
Troy Rosario hit a basket for TNT on the other end but Santos responded with a booming triple and a Spiderman dunk that sealed the Beermen’s comeback.
Jayson Castro and Mo Tautuaa fired up their team in the opener, immediately putting TNT on top by double digits. SMB uncharacteristically struggled with their shooting and found themselves facing a ten-point deficit at the end of the first frame.
The Beermen overtook early in the second quarter after a 10-2 blitz that saw Von Pessumal and Santos finally connecting from downtown. The KaTropa quickly regained their advantage but they barely held on to their lead as they got outscored, 21-12, in the period.
Coach Nash Racela’s troops attempted to pull away after the halftime break. San Miguel, however, refused to let them get too far and eventually managed to bounce back in the last 12 minutes of the ballgame.
Rosario paced TNT with 15 points and 13 rebounds, while Tautuaa and RR Pogoy added 12 and 11 markers respectively.
SAN MIGUEL 88 – Fajardo 20, Lassiter 15, Santos 15, Cabagnot 11, Ganuelas-Rosser 8, Pessumal 7, Ross 5, Heruela 5, De Ocampo 2, Semerad 0, Mamaril 0, Lanete 0.
TNT 76 – Rosario 15, Tautuaa 12, Pogoy 11, Castro 9, Garcia 9, Williams 9, Semerad 6, Reyes 5, Golla 0, Carey 0, Torres 0, Onwubere 0.
Quarters: 14-24, 35-36, 58-61, 88-76.
– TNT shot themselves in the foot with their 20 turnovers. San Miguel had the same number of errors, but the KaTropa committed seven of theirs in the pivotal fourth quarter.
– SMB only went 5-for-26 from downtown but they dominated the paint with 56 inside points compared to 36 for TNT.
– Austria was happy with the performance of bench players Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Von Pessumal, and Brian Heruela who provided energy and played quality minutes for the Beermen.
TNT – January 17 (Wednesday) vs Blackwater Elite at Smart-Araneta Coliseum
San Miguel – January 19 (Friday) vs NLEX Road Warriors at Cuneta Astrodome