By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
VICTORIOUS in their Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup debut at the weekend, the San Miguel Beermen go for their second win today in the last PBA play date before it takes a two-week break for the preparation of the national team for the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
To take on Blackwater Elite (1-0) in the 4:30 p.m. opener at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, the Beermen look to stay unbeaten early in the season-ending PBA tournament, building on their 125-112 victory over the NLEX Road Warriors in their tournament-opening game on Sept. 1.
San Miguel got its campaign to an auspicious start led by big man Christian Standhardinger who played straight from the airport a couple of hours before game time after his stint with the national team at the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia.
Mr. Standhardinger had a career-high 36 points to go along with 11 rebounds to more than make up for the absence of league most valuable player June Mar Fajardo, who is expected to miss some time because of a shin injury.
Import Arizona Reid complemented Mr. Standhardinger with 30 points, 13 rebounds and six assists as the Beermen outlasted the Road Warriors.
Alex Cabganot had 23 points and nine assists while Marcio Lassiter added 14 points.
San Miguel Coach Leo Austria welcomed the win and said they hope that it would set the tone for them in the Governors’ Cup while also commending the play of Mr. Standhardinger.
“We are glad to be able to snatch this win. Usually every start of the conference we struggle but tonight we did not. Maybe it was because of our loss in the finals last conference and the players wanted to step up,” said Mr. Austria, referring to their 4-2 finals loss to the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings in the Commissioner’s Cup.
“Christian really played well, He was tired but decided to play nonetheless. His stint in the Asian Games should help him in his confidence,” he added.
Out to derail San Miguel is Blackwater, itself a winner in its tournament debut.
The Elite defeated the TNT KaTropa, 104-98, in overtime on Aug. 24 behind the hot shooting of Allein Maliksi, who finished with a team-high 28 points, with import Henry Walker providing 23 points and 14 rebounds.
It was close fight right from the start with the outcome only decided in the closing moments of extra time.
Blackwater will get extra help in today’s game as it welcomes back Poy Erram from the Asian Games.
Playing in the main game at 7 p.m., meanwhile, are the defending champion Barangay Ginebra (2-0) and Northport (0-3).
Meanwhile, after today’s double-header the PBA goes on a two-week break to give way to the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Gilas Pilipinas plays in the second round of the qualifiers against Iran on Sept. 13 away and then host in a closed-door match Qatar on Sept. 17 at the Big Dome.
The closed-door home match was part of the sanctions meted by FIBA on the Philippines following the July 2 brawl between Gilas and Australia in the third window of the qualifiers.
Gilas, to be coached by Yeng Guiao in place of the suspended Chot Reyes, officially began training on Monday night at the Meralco Gym in Pasig City with a 16-man pool.
Part of the pool are Messrs. Standhardinger, Maliksi and Erram, Greg Slaughter, Scottie Thompson, Raymond Almazan, Beau Belga, Gabe Norwood, Alex Cabagnot, Japeth Aguilar, Marcio Lassiter, Ian Sangalang, Matthew Wright, Paul Lee, Stanley Pringle and Asi Taulava.
Regular PBA action resumes on Sept. 19.