Reigning champion San Miguel kept its slate unblemished after surviving a tough challenge from NLEX, 109-98 in an emotional 43rd PBA Philippine Cup tussle at the Cuneta Astrodome on Wednesday night.
However, the Beermen’s fourth win in as many matches didn’t come in easy after being entangled in a couple of altercations which resulted to a handful of technical fouls, flagrant fouls and even 2 ejections.
The Beermen started slow, even trailing by nine points entering the break before regrouping in the second half to make way for a toe-to-toe battle against the Road Warriors down the wire.
Thanks to championship experience and composure, SMB proved to be the steadier team down the wire as it pulled away from an 87-85 close call midway through the final period with a 16-4 bomb for a huge 103-89 gap which pretty much took the fight out of the gritty Road Warriors.
With the game result virtually in the bag inside the last two minutes, Chris Ross though was thrown out after receiving his second technical foul of the game.
Ross was seen in confrontation with the NLEX bench in a dead ball possession which erupted to a near altercation between coaches and players before cooler heads prevailed.
It wasn’t the only emotion-filled confrontation in the game though as Ross was also kicked by Mike Miranda in the groin resulting in a flagrant foul minutes prior to the said Ross’ confrontation with the NLEX bench.
Before that, Ross and Alex Mallari also went at it in the third quarter and in result, both received technical fouls while Von Pessumal was also handed out a flagrant foul penalty 1 due to a hit on Kiefer Ravena.
Nevertheless, in-game commotions didn’t bury the strong performances of Beermen who were led by June Mar Fajardo as they remained spotless midway through the Philippine Cup which they are looking to win for a historic fourth time.
Facing double and triple coverages all game long, Fajardo still couldn’t be stopped down low as he scored 25 points and hauled down 16 rebounds.
Arwind Santos ably supported Fajardo with 23 points, including a pair of triples in SMB’s pivotal late game blow, on top of 13 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
Alex Cabagnot was also a key in SMB’s win, tallying a near triple double of 14 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists.
Meanwhile, rookie Kiefer Ravena had 15 points while Raul Soyud, Alex Mallari and JR Quiñahan had 12 markers apiece in a losing effort for NLEX which suffered its third straight loss to drop at 2-3.
San Miguel Beermen 109 – Santos 26, Fajardo 25, Lassiter 14, Cabagnot 14, Pessumal 10, Rosser 6, Ross 4, de Ocampo 4, Mamaril 2, Semerad 2, Heruela 2.
NLEX Road Warriors 98 – Ravena 15, Quinahan 12, Soyud 12, Mallari 12, Miranda 10, Tiongson 8, Uyloan 6, Fonacier 6, Alas 5, Al-Hussaini 5, Taulava 3, Baguio 2, Gotladera 2.
Quarters: 31-24, 49-58, 74-74, 109-98.