Beermen keep Road Warriors winless, clinch quarterfinal berth
May 19, 2017
THE long layoff visibly took some edge off San Miguel Beer. Still, the Beermen got enough left in its tank to hold off NLEX 114-108 Friday and formalize their entry into the PBA Commissioner's Cup quarterfinals at the Cuneta Astrodome. Charles Rhodes had 37 points and 19 rebounds and got plenty of help from his local teammates as SMB shook off the ill effects of a 13-day layoff to take control right in the opening quarter. By the final two-minute mark of the third period, the Beermen sat on a 24-point lead which they used as cushion to fend off the Road Warriors' last-ditch efforts to act out the role of spoilers. "I was really worried about our long layoff," admitted SMB coach Leo Austria, whose team also got a long respite before dropping a 103-112 decision to TNT last May 5. "It affected us on our game against TNT, which caught us really flat," added Austria. "In this game we were again sluggish in the first quarter. Kaya nga I'm really happy we were able to recover and dictate the tempo of the game." The victory was the sixth in seven games for SMB as it joined early qualifiers Meralco, Star and TNT KaTropa in the next round. The work is far from done for the Beermen, however, as they now focus more of their sights on copping a top two finish in the eliminations which they could realize if they win their last four games starting with Barangay Ginebra Sunday. "Kailangan momentum ma-diretso, simula sa Ginebra then Alaska in our next game," said Austria. "We have to be in great shape for those two." It was the ninth straight loss for NLEX, which primarily used the game to test new acquisitions JR Quinahan, Alex Mallari and Ken Ighalo. Another new recruit in Larry Fonacier sat the game out due to a foot injury and joined Jonas Villanueva and Rico Villanueva in the sidelines. Quinahan gave a relatively good account of himself in a Road Warriors uniform with 12 points, five rebounds and three assists while Mallari added 11 points and seven boards in his own NLEX debut. Wayne Chism led NLEX with 22 points, but only four boards against the twin towers of Rhodes and June Mar Fajardo. Rabeh Al-Hussaini added 18 points while Carlo Lastimosa and Juami Tiongson combined for 21 points. Those were not enough to offset the more balanced attack by SMB, which also played minus Ronald Tubid (sore throat and fever) and Yancy de Ocampo (back spasms). Chris Ross led those who more than made up for the absentees by registering 15 points, 11 assists and seven boards, with Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and Fajardo adding 12 markers. Barely recharged after helping Gilas Pilipinas top the 2017 SEABA tourney Thursday evening, Fajardo also grabbed six rebounds and issued three dimes before fouling out with still 1:36 left. "I'm very happy to see June Mar back at talagang naglaro siya," said Austria. "Saludo ako sa kanyang professionalism."