By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE DEFENDING champions San Miguel Beermen are now up 2-0 over the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters in their best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series. But it has not been easy for the Beermen, they admit, with the joust having them relying a lot on their collective experience.
Following their 92-82 win in Game Two on Monday, the Beermen doubled up on the top seeds Fuel Masters and moved just two games away from advancing to the finals of the season-opening Philippine Basketball Association tournament.
It is a situation that San Miguel is welcoming with open arms as the team, loaded as it is, is being made to work hard by Phoenix.
“Wow. It’s draining. We are lucky to escape this game as a winner. We knew from the start that this one was going to be a hard game. They know how to disrupt our game. Credit to the players for they knew what to do,” a relieved San Miguel coach Leo Austria said after their hard-earned victory last time around.
“Our players refused to lose. Even though we were struggling, they knew the importance of this game. Because of their experience they were able to come back,” the coach added.
In Game Two, Phoenix took control of the opening half, steadily keeping the Beermen at bay.
In the third quarter, however, the Beermen started to make their move on the lead of June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter.
The two teams battled it out up to the closing minutes of the contest before San Miguel sped to create some separation in the end to book the win.
Mr. Lassiter led the Beermen with 24 points, followed by Mr. Fajardo with 19 points on top of 18 rebounds.
Terrence Romeo came off the bench to add 14 points of his own while Alex Cabagnot and Von Pessumal eight points apiece.
For Phoenix it was once again the duo of Calvin Abueva and Matthew Wright who showed the way.
Mr. Abueva finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks before fouling out while Mr. Wright had 13 points.
RJ Jazul, Jason Perkins and Justin Chua had 12 points each for Phoenix, which is in its first semifinal appearance in the PBA.
While they are up 2-0 in the series, Mr. Austria said it is not yet over and they have to continue working during the Lenten break to be ready for Game Three.
“It’s far from over. We will have a break and Phoenix will have time to regroup and prepare. Going up 2-0 is not an assurance of passage to the finals. We know that firsthand,” Mr. Austria said.
Game Three of the San Miguel-Phoenix series is set for Easter Sunday, April 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.