SAN Miguel Beer poured on the heat in the second half to subdue NorthPort, 113-107, and move ominously close to its targeted top 2 in the PBA Philippine on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen, who had a listless start, seized the momentum in the third but still needed to stretch their bench to thwart the Batang Pier who came threateningly close in the stretch.
June Fajardo spewed steady fires as he cut loose with 40 points, including four points in the last 1:27 minutes to help steer the Beermen out of harm’s way.
Nico Elorde put the Batang Pier within 105-103 with 2:29 left but Fajardo, sent to the foul line by Stanley Pringle, coolly sank two penalty freethrows for a 107-103 SMB lead.
NorthPort kept itself within striking distance on Mo Tautuaa’s two freethrows off Fajardo, 107-105, and Pringle’s basket, 110-107, before Chriss Ross’ dagger of a triple with 12 seconds remaining sealed the win for SMB, 113-107.
The Beermen climbed to solo third with their sixth win in nine outings, boosting their chances of taking of two top slots that offer the luxury of winning only once in the quarterfinal round. However, their chances may not depend solely on their hands alone.
The Batang Pier tumbled to their fifth loss in seven games, and may need to win at least three of their remaining five games for a possible place in the eight-team quarterfinal round.
Nico Elorde’s triple gave NorthPort a 21-11 lead late in the opening quarter, but Terrence Romeo came through with a layup and triple, Fajardo added a three-point play and Ganuelas translated a Romero assist as SMB narrowed the gap at the end of the same period 25-21.
The Beermen tied the count at 25-all early in the second on Romero’s two freethrows off Elorde foul, before the Batang Pier launched another counter-offensive.
Jonathan Grey completed a three-point play to ignite a 14-4 blitz where Mo Tautuaa scored six points as NorthPort restored its double-digit lead at 39-29.
The Beermen slowly clawed back into the game behind Arwind Santos, Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter, and reduced their deficit to just 54-50 at the turn.
San Miguel (113) - Fajardo 40, Romeo 23, Lassiter 15, Santos 11, Nabong 11, Ross 9, Rosser 4, Cabagnot 0, Pessumal 0.
NorthPort (107) - Tautuaa 28, Anthony 16, Bolick 12, Grey 12, Taha 11, Elorde 11, Pringle 10, Lanete 5, Guinto 2, Gabayni 0, Sollano 0. Quarterscores: 21-25, 50-54, 84-77, 113-107.