San Miguel Beer seemed to have gone complacent in the fourth quarter because of a double-digit advantage and nearly paid for it.
“It's a big lesson for us, na even though you're leading by two digits, it's not secured,” said SMB coach Leo Austria minutes after the Beermen survived a big scare in an 88-86 win over a surprisingly tough NorthPort on Sunday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Arena in Pasig City.
“Lahat ng teams dito puwede manalo kahit kanino kaya hindi puwede biruin at ipinakita ito ng NorthPort,” added Austria. “For me, NorthPort is one of the contenders. Give them few more games and they will beat even teams on the top of the standings.”
True enough, the Beermen entered the fourth period enjoying what looked like a safe 79-63 advantage, only to go sputtering in the fourth quarter.
They went four-of-19 from the floor in the quarter, scoring just nine points in what Austria described as ‘ugly fourth quarter.’
Defeat actually stared right on the eyes of the many-time champions when the Batang Pier clawed back in contention and tied the game at 86-all, on a free throw by Robert Bolick off technical foul against Arwind Santos, 7.3 seconds remaining.
But Santos made up for that crucial foul as he nailed a jumper from the 15-foot line, shattering the 86-all count and giving the Beermen the marginal basket, 88-86.
With only 1.2 seconds left, the Batang Pier failed in their last play, allowing the Beermen to escape with their second win in three games.
“It’s an ugly finish for us, ugly game, but still, a win is a win,” said Austria. “I’m expecting this because there's some resistance from the other teams because they also want to beat us.”
The game-winning shot capped Santos’ yeoman job laced with 17 points and five rebounds, and preserved the game-long brilliance of Jaymar Perez, who led the Beermen with 18 points and eight rebounds.
“I hope na this momentum of ours ay magtuloy tuloy na dahil we have another game on Wednesday (against Blackwater), and after this we have two big teams to play, Ginebra and magnolia,” said Austria.
Austria admitted having some trouble in their preparations because of the presence of Greg Slaughter.
“Usually, kapag walang malaki kalaban o mas malaki kay June Mar, our concentration is for us to dominate the shaded area with a lot of good outside shooters,” he said.
“But this time, naiba preparation naming dahil kay Slaughter,” Austria added.
If there was any consolation, Slaughter got the better end of his duel with Fajardo as he cut loose with 23 points and 17 rebounds for the Batang Pier, who tumbled to their second defeat in three games.
Fajardo made just eight points and seven rebounds.
San Miguel (88) — Jaymar Perez 18, Arwind Santos 17, Cabagnt 16, Tautuaa 11, Fajardo 8, Pessumal 6, Lassiter 6, Ross 3, Gamalinda 3, Romeo 0, Zamar 0, Gotladera 0, Comboy 0, Sena 0.
NorthPort (86) — Slaughter 23, Bolick 19, Onwubere 12, Balanza 11, Malonzo 10, P. Taha 9, Troy Rike 1, K. Ferrer 1, Subido 0, Elorde 0, S. Anthony 0, Doliguez 0, Lanete 0, Grey 0, J. Faundo 0.
Quarterscores: 21-21, 52-45, 79-63, 88-86