MANILA, Philippines – At the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Saturday at the PhilSports Arena, SAN Miguel Beer finished the game strong this time to defeat Phoenix by a score of 108 to 104 and strengthen its playoff push.
The Beermen had a lead of up to 13 points, but unlike in their previous back-to-back defeats to Ginebra and Magnolia, they stood firm in the face of the Fuel Masters’ ferocious revolt to prevail and get back on track.
The defending champions, who are playing without coach Leo Austria, moved up from their previous position of 10th to the Magic 8 and drew even with TNT and idle Meralco, who are currently occupying the seventh and ninth spots, with their fourth victory in nine games.
When Austria was absent due to health and safety regulations, assistant coach Jorge Gallent took over and declared, “Every game now is a knockout game for us, and it will have a huge impact in our efforts to advance up the standings.”
“San Miguel basketball,” which must be played for 48 minutes each time, is required.
Six SMB players scored in double figures, headed by Simon Enciso, as they attempted to revive their sputtering campaign and atone for losses to Ginebra (97 to 96) and Magnolia earlier in the season (85 to 80).
Enciso scored 20 points, including six of ten attempts from beyond the arc, while also grabbing seven rebounds, dishing out three assists, and making two steals.
Even though June Mar Fajardo showed up in uniform, he continued to sit out due to recovery from a throat operation. Import Devon Scott (18 points plus 14 rebounds), CJ Perez (16), Marcio Lassiter (14), Mo Tautuaa (12), and Jericho Cruz (11) produced big contributions.
Everyone pitched in, so it was a team effort, said Enciso. “Everyone that entered the game gave it their all for as many minutes as they were on the field, and that’s how we won the game.”
The SMB Fuel Masters took control of a 77 to 64 lead in the third quarter and even maintained a 105 to 99 lead with 1:42 remaining, but the persistent Fuel Masters frequently recovered and later threatened to close the gap to 105 to 104 on a Tyler Tio three-pointer.
SMB now led by two points after Scott’s split, but Phoenix still had a chance and turned to RJ Jazul for a potential game-winning triple.
However, the seasoned shooter missed, allowing Enciso to grab the defensive board and pass the ball to Perez, who was then fouled by Sean Anthony with 1.3 seconds left, Perez calmly sank the dagger charity to give his team a more comfortable lead, 108 to 104.
JVee Mocon topped all scorers with 18 points for the Fuel Masters, who fell to sixth place overall at 5 to 6 after suffering their third straight defeat.
Scores at the end of the match
San Miguel with 108 points
Individual scores: Enciso 20, Scott 18, Perez 16, Lassiter 14, Tautuaa 12, Cruz 11, Zamar 6, Manuel 4, Brondial 4, Herndon 3
Phoenix with 104 points
Individual scores: Mocon 18, Serrano 14, Tio 14, Perkins 13, Anthony 13, Wesson 10, Rios 9, Jazul 9, Camacho 2, Pascual 2, Manganti 0, Garcia 0
Scores per quarter
32 to 30, 60 to 56, 78 to 72, 108 to 104.