By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
DOWN to their last six games in the elimination round of the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup, the San Miguel Beermen look to make the most of it and put themselves a situation to advance to the next round.
Sporting a 2-3 record, currently outside of the playoff picture, the Philippine Cup champions Beermen seek to turn things around and play at a level they are accustomed to.
They did their cause a favor when they won over the Alaska Aces, 119-107, on June 21, avoiding falling deeper in the race.
Alex Cabagnot took charge for San Miguel in the win, scoring 31 points to lead five Beermen in double figures. He also dished out six assists.
Import Charles Rhodes had 23 points and 11 rebounds. Marcio Lassiter also had 23 markers to go along with seven dimes.
Arwind Santos came up big as well for the Beermen with 15 points while reigning league most valuable player June Mar Fajardo had 14 points and nine boards.
For San Miguel coach Leo Austria, the win over Alaska was something they badly needed considering the kind of start they have had in the midseason PBA tournament.
“This was a very important game for us because we don’t want to be left behind at the bottom. [It was a] scary game at the start because we didn’t have a good start. As much as possible we want to have a good start but Alaska left us early,” said Mr. Austria post-match.
“I’m so happy the players played with a sense of urgency and we were able to recover and at the first half, we were able to get a lead of 24 points. The good thing with this game is I was able to use a lot of players and this could give us some confidence for the bench players,” he added.
Incidentally, the Beermen did not finish the game with starting guard Chris Ross who came down with a calf injury.
Mr. Austria said he expects the players to pick up from the Alaska victory and further shape up as the eliminations wind up.
“I think offensively, it’s not a problem for us. Our problem is our defense, we just allow our opponents to score a lot since our first game in the tournament. Some more than 100 and today, against Alaska, we allowed more than a hundred again. While a win is win, we still have to do a good job limiting our opponents,” he said.
Mr. Austria said he is confident of them making it to the playoffs although at 2-3 they are taking it a step at a time.
“Everything is possible. It’s too early for us because even though we are down 2-3, we still have six games left and what we are after is to win our last six games so that we can end up at number 3 or 4, or maybe 2,” he said.
“But right now, we just want to get into the top 6. One game at a time. What we’re thinking right now is our next game which is Magnolia — whom we think is really a contender in this conference,” added Mr. Austria, referring to the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok, whom the Beermen will face in their game on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.