By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE defending Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup champions San Miguel Beermen are finishing strong in the ongoing tournament after defeating the Blackwater Elite, 115-106, on Wednesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena for their third straight victory.
Had a slow start to the game against the Elite, the Beermen stayed the course and when they finally found their groove, channelled the unstoppable the rest of the way.
Blackwater got off to a fast start, racing to an 11-0 lead in the first two minutes of the opening canto.
But San Miguel would not stay behind too far after, going on a 21-14 run in the next six minutes to trim Blackwater’s lead to just three points, 26-23.
The Elite though eventually held the fort, 34-28, in the first 12 minutes of the contest.
The Beermen would continue to fight their way back in the second period.
They tied the count at 47-all at the 3:07 mark of the quarter following a triple from Marcio Lassiter before sprinting to a 57-49 advantage for the remainder of the first half.
Blackwater tried to regain some ground to start the third period only to find a San Miguel crew ready for it.
San Miguel extended its lead to 16 points, 69-53, with 8:41 to go as newly acquired big man Kelly Nabong found his touch.
Import Henry Walker kept the Elite within striking distance after but the Beermen would go on to hold sway, 84-70, heading into the final frame.
Recognizing that they had the Elite on the ropes, the Beermen went for the early finish to start the fourth period.
San Miguel stretched its lead to 22 points, 94-72, at the 9:45 mark.
But Blackwater would go on a mini-run in the next minute and a half, led by off-the-bench players Chris Javier and Ael Banal, slicing their deficit to 14 points, 95-81.
The Beermen recoiled thereafter, building up their biggest lead of 24 markers, 107-83, with five and a half minutes remaining in the game.
The Elite made the score more respectable in the wind-up, cutting the Beermen’s lead to nine points as the final buzzer sounded, 115-106.
Arwind Santos top-scored for the Beermen with 23 points to go along with 15 rebounds.
Mr. Lassiter had 18 points with Alex Cabagnot and import Renaldo Balkman adding 12 points apiece.
Mr. Walker led Blackwater with 26 points and 12 rebounds while Mike DiGregorio finished with 19 points.
“We know we have to play our best in our remaining games because our standing is not really that good,” said Mr. Santos, whose team improved to 6-4 with a game left in the elimination round.
“We have to continue doing this in the next game to put us in a better position heading into the playoffs,” he added.
San Miguel finishes its elimination-round assignments on Saturday, June 7, against the Magnolia Hotshots Pambasang Manok.
Blackwater, meanwhile, played its last game of the tournament, finishing its campaign with a forgettable 1-10 record.