HAPPY and thankful to have taken Game One of their best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series on Saturday, the defending champions San Miguel Beermen are looking to take cue from it as they go for a 2-0 lead over the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters in the second game of the joust today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Showing championship poise and drive in the opener, especially in the middle quarters where they made their move, the Beermen overcame a serious challenge from the top seeds Fuel Masters to draw first blood, 100-88, and go a game up.
Guard Alex Cabagnot led a balanced San Miguel attack in getting the better of their opponents, finishing with 26 points to go along with seven assists. Chris Ross and Marcio Lassiter each had 14 points while Christian Standhardinger added 12 points and 16 rebounds.
Reigning league most valuable player June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos scored nine apiece for the Beermen, who held steady even if Phoenix made a strong late push in the game.
“We are thankful with this win. Before the start of the series we were concerned because we did not have ample time to prepare and they (Fuel Masters) had been practicing for quite some time already,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria after the game.
San Miguel had to survive three games with the TNT KaTropa in the quarterfinals while Phoenix made short work of the Alaska Aces in the quarters, seeing no need to use its twice-to-beat advantage.
Mr. Austria, however, believes that the TNT series helped them to be better prepared for the semifinals.
“I think it worked to our advantage, especially with the physicality and the players staying focused and playing with a sense of energy,” he said.
The San Miguel coach went on to say that if they would have their way, they do not want to make their semifinal series with Phoenix a long one but that they believe the Fuel Masters would not just roll over and die.
“We don’t want to prolong this. But you’ll never know. They are the top seeds and they are very capable of winning. You can’t discount them. We are not thinking of a sweep. We are taking it one game at a time,” said Mr. Austria, who underscored that they need to do better with their outside shooting in today’s game to further help their cause.
Meanwhile, leading Phoenix, which is in its first-ever semifinals in the Philippine Basketball Association, last time around was Matthew Wright with 22 points.
Calvin Abueva had a monster double-double of 18 points and 21 rebounds.
Both are still confident of bouncing back in Game Two set for 7 p.m. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo