DEFENDING PBA Philippine Cup champions San Miguel Beermen opened their title defense yesterday with a win, beating the Star Hotshots, 96-88, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Ushering in the 42nd season of the Philippine Basketball Association, San Miguel got its campaign on the right track with its key players leading the charge.
The Beermen took control early, holding a 26-24 lead at the end of the first quarter before stretching their advantage to 51-43 at the half behind the triumvirate of Alex Cabagnot, June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos.
Star would seize the momentum in the third period, going on a 9-2 run to start the quarter to narrow the gap.
It eventually took the lead at the four-minute mark, 66-64, with Mark Barroca, Paul Lee and Allein Maliksi conspiring to rally their team.
Star finished the third quarter holding a 79-75 lead.
The Hotshots stayed hot to start the fourth with four quick points to extend their lead.
San Miguel, however, would dig deep as the fourth quarter progressed with Marcio Lassiter and Messrs. Cabagnot, Santos and Fajardo towing their team.
It overtook Star midway into the payoff period and never looked back.
Mr. Fajardo paced San Miguel with 25 points, 16 rebounds and two blocks with Mr. Cabagnot finishing with 22 markers and eight assists.
Mr. Santos had 17 points while Mr. Lassiter ended with nine.
“I was really worried in our opening game because we usually don’t start our season with a game in the opener. But I’m happy with the result, especially with the starters who led us tonight,” said San Miguel Coach Leo Austria after the game.
Star, playing its first game under new coach Chito Victolero, was led by Mr. Barroca with 13 points and Mr. Lee with 12.
Rookie guard Jio Jalalon debuted with 11 points.