By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE defending PBA Philippine Cup champions San Miguel Beermen extended their winning streak to four games after defeating the Northport Batang Pier, 113-107, on Sunday in league action at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Led by five-time Philippine Basketball Association most valuable player June Mar Fajardo, the Beermen turned things around following a struggling opening half to book the win that took them to a 6-3 card and strengthen their assault on the top of the standings.
Rookie Robert Bolick and big man Mo Tautuaa got NorthPort to a strong start, helping their squad a 14-2 lead in the opening six minutes of the first quarter.
San Miguel eventually got its game footing after, pulling to within four points, 25-21, at the end of the opening 12 minutes.
The Batang Pier continued to exact their command early in the second quarter.
They stretched their lead to double-digits anew, 39-29, at the 8:07 mark before Arwind Santos and the Beermen came charging from the back to make it a four-point affair once again by the halftime break, 54-50.
In the third quarter San Miguel made its move, going on a 9-5 run to tie the score at 59-all with just two minutes lapsing.
The Beermen, led by Mr. Fajardo and Terrence Romeo, rolled to a double-digit lead after, 76-65, in the next four minutes.
It was a momentum they would take full advantage of the rest of the way to hold an 84-77 advantage heading into the final frame.
In the fourth period, San Miguel kept Northport at bay up to the midway point before the Batang Pier made a last-ditch effort to salvage the victory.
They would come to within two points, 107-105, with 1:14 remaining as Nico Elorde and Mr. Tautuaa drained key baskets.
But Mr. Fajardo gave San Miguel further breathing space with a jumper with 57 seconds to go to make it 109-105. A free throw by guard Chris Ross with 38 second left made it a five-point lead for the Beermen, 110-105.
Stanley Pringle pushed Northport to within three points, 110-107, two seconds later before the Beermen sued for time.
San Miguel milked down the clock until Mr. Ross pulled up for three-pointer with 12 ticks remaining and drained it to make a six-point lead, 113-107.
It was a hole Northport could not get itself out from as it dropped to a fifth straight defeat.
Mr. Fajardo had a monster game of 40 points and 19 rebounds for San Miguel with Mr. Romeo adding 23 markers.
Marcio Lassiter had 15 points with Mr. Santos and Kelly Nabong each having 11 points.
For NorthPort (2-5) it was Mr. Tautuaa who led the way with 28 points while Sean Anthony had 16.
Stanley Pringle had a near triple-double of 10 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.
“We just stepped up in the second half. We struggled early but coach reminded us of the need to play well and to win our remaining games help our campaign,” said Mr. Fajardo, named player of the game, after their win.