The San Miguel Beermen grabbed their third straight victory in the Oppo PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the expense of the Star Hotshots, 105-97, on Easter Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
San Miguel coach Leo Austria was happy that even if they came from a long break, his players still succeeded in this tough game against the Hotshots, who were still reeling from a previous loss. “I’m a little bit worried dahil we came from a break. Usually ginagawa namin, three days before the game nag-pa-practice kami. I opted not to practice nung Friday dahil nga Holy Week. Ang laki ng tiwala ko sa mga players kasi they know how to win.”
The Beermen were very efficient throughout the match, outscoring the Hotshots for three quarters. Star only managed to get going late in the fourth but it was a little too late for them.
When all seemed lost for the Hotshots, Paul Lee knocked down a crucial triple to get them within four points, 99-95, a minute remaining on the clock. Arwind Santos missed his attempt on the other end that gave Lee one more chance to trim the gap. But there would be no Easter Sunday resurrection for the Hotshots as this time the Lethal Weapon missed his from rainbow country. Chris Ross then scored on an and-one play to seal the deal for San Miguel.
Ross finished with 19 points, four rebounds, four assists, and two steals. Charles Rhodes, meanwhile, topscored with 29 points on 14 shots, to go with ten rebounds.
The Beermen raced to a 16-6 start to the contest. Marcio Lassiter sizzled early, making it easier for Rhodes and June Mar Fajardo to operate inside.
Ten of the first 18 points of Star came from Ian Sangalang. If not for the big man’s perimeter shooting, SMB would have broken away more easily.
The Hotshots could not produce from the shaded area at the onset. But Jio Jalalon used his quickness to challenge the defense of San Miguel and help open things up for his team.
Star cut the lead down to one, 27-26, to end the first period.
A PJ Simon spin move gave Star the lead early in the second, but four straight points from Arwind Santos gave the advantage back to San Miguel.
Better inside scoring and tighter defense allowed the Hotshots to knot the game at 38-all.
Yet San Miguel’s ball movement allowed them to regain control. Despite the decline in their field goal shooting percentage in the second frame, they still managed to end the half on top by six, 48-42.
Rhodes got whistled for his fourth foul with still three minutes left in the first half, prompting Austria to field in an all-Filipino lineup until late in the third.
After the break, Tony Mitchell scored six straight points for Star but Ross and Fajardo worked to preserve SMB’s edge.
Lassiter’s back-to-back triples gave them a 13-point advantage, 64-51. San Miguel was on target from rainbow country, while the Hotshots could not get anything going from the outside. It was only late in the third frame that Simon scored the first triple out of his team’s 14 attempts.
San Miguel extended their lead to as much as 19 before settling for a 12-point cushion heading into the final canto.
Star trimmed their deficit to single digits courtesy of a three-pointer from Allein Maliksi, which Brian Heruela quickly negated with a three of his own. Lee then joined the three-point party to make it 91-82 with 5:12 remaining.
The two teams exchanged baskets but what Star needed was to make stops to get back into the game. It did not help that Mitchell kept on missing his free throws. He then got called for his sixth foul after producing 22 points and 11 rebounds with less than three minutes left.
Austria revealed that it was really part of their game plan to get the Hotshots import into foul trouble. “We want Mitchell to get into foul trouble. You cannot have a good layup every time he’s in the shaded area. Meron ka palaging hesitation. That [was] one of our goals, to get Mitchell into foul trouble. Naintindihan ng import namin dahil he kept on attacking Mitchell,” he said.
The San Miguel mentor is confident that Rhodes will keep on getting better, now that he’s starting to get the hang of Philippine basketball. “Slowly, nakukuha nya na kung ano ang larong Pinoy, especially ang sistema namin. He’s not really asking for the ball in every possession but he’s a good help especially if he’s playing at the post. It complements the system and the kind of players that we have. Yung chemistry, nakukuha na nya.”
The Beermen are now the only undefeated team in the field with a 3-0 mark while the Hotshots lost their second straight to slip to 4-2.
SAN MIGUEL 103 – Rhodes 29, Ross 19, Lassiter 16, Santos 13, Fajardo 10, Heruela 8, Cabagnot 6, Espinas 2, Semerad 0, De Ocampo 0.
STAR 97 – Mitchell 22, Sangalang 18, Lee 16, Maliksi 11, Barroca 10, Jalalon 9, Simon 7, Javier 2, Reavis 2, Ramos 0.
Quarterscores: 27-26, 48-42, 77-65, 103-97.
Aldrech Ramos sustained a nasal fracture after an inadvertent elbow from Charles Rhodes. He was brought to the hospital before the first frame ended.
San Miguel had advantage in three-point shooting, spreading ten triples throughout the four quarters, compared to Star’s seven that mostly came in the endgame.
Star committed 16 turnovers that the Beermen converted to 14 points. San Miguel only had nine turnovers.
San Miguel – April 19 (Wednesday) vs. Mahindra Floodbuster at the Cuneta Astrodome
Star – April 22 (Saturday) vs Blackwater Elite at the Mall of Asia Arena