SAN Miguel Beer guns for a 2-0 lead today as it takes on Phoenix Fuel in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen have not only the experience to ride on in the 7 p.m. tussle, but also the momentum – a great momentum at that – as they seek to seize control of the best-of-seven series.
SMB coach Leo Austria admitted he was quite worried prior to last Saturday’s opener of the series owing to the team’s lack of adequate preparation against a Phoenix team that had beaten his Beermen back in the elimination.
“We hardly had ample time to prepare while they (Fuel Masters) have been practicing,” said Austria. “But my players, they were really focused.”
But the Beermen rose to the occasion and beat the Fuel Masters, 100-88, behind their sustained offensive anchored on Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter and Christian Standhardinger.
Cabagnot was easily the most consistent among the Beermen after tallying 26 points on top of five rebounds, seven assists and three steals.
Ross and Lassiter chipped in 14 points each, while Standhardinger added 12 points aside from taking care of the rebound battle after June Mar Fajardo left the game on fouls with 3:49 left. Standhardinger pulled down 16 rebounds and issued four assists.
Interestingly, the Beermen were actually out-rebounded by the Fuel Masters, 59-38, but made up for that by ensuring a smooth flow of ball movement as manifested by 24 assists, compared to Phoenix’s 16.
The Beermen also hit their outside shots, coming away with 18 big triples as against 10 of Phoenix.
Once more, experience proved a big factor, and the Beermen showed why they are again in the semifinals of the tournament they are looking to win for fifth straight time.
That experience was in great display when the Beermen quashed the Fuel Masters’ bid to come back from 24 points down.
“I told them we’re still ahead, don’t panic. I know you’ve been in this kind of situation. All you have to do is to sustain,” said Austria, referring to what he told the Beermen when Phoenix came to within 89-82.
“With the experience of the team, they know what to do,” added Austria.
With what the Fuel Masters went through in the opener, the Beermen now became all the more cautious.
As the Fuel Masters got their first taste of a semifinal stint in the league, the focus now is how they will make the necessary adjustment.
The Beermen also have to watch out for Matthew Wright, Calvin Abueva, Alex Mallari and RJ Jazul – the four carried the fight for Phoenix.
Wright finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists, Abueva pumped in 18 points and was the team’s top rebounder after cornering 21. Mallari and Jazul each added 11 points and four assists.