After trailing for the better part of three quarters, the San Miguel Beermen showed its championship composure in the final canto to escape with a thrilling 92-82 victory over the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters on Monday inside the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Marcio Lassiter came away with Player of the Game honors, tallying a game-high 24 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field and two-of-seven from distance. He also corralled seven boards and dished out three assists.
Physicality was the trend for 48 minutes, as SMB was dealt with a big blow early when Christian Standhardinger was called for a fragrant foul 2 at the 6:10 mark of the second quarter after figuring in a skirmish with Calvin Abueva. After checking out the replay multiple times, it appeared that the Filipino-German bruiser inadvertently hit Abueva twice in the face and groin area, forcing the referees to warrant an ejection.
The Fuel Masters held on to a 46-37 lead at the half, led by Matthew Wright who had 11 points after two quarters. The Filipinos-Canadian sniper, however, was held to just two points in the second half and finished the game with 13 points.
SMB came roaring back in the third quarter, as the defending champs went on a 9-2 run at the 7:20 mark of the fourth, punctuated by an Arwind Santos trey to cut the deficit to four. After shooting just 31 percent in the first 24 minutes, the Beermen outscored the Fuel Masters 26-17 in the third, to enter the final frame tied 63 apiece.
Terrence Romeo led the uprising early in fourth, coming up with timely baskets en route to 14 point-performance. A pair of threes by Chris Ross and Marcio Lassiter had SMB up 84-80 with under two minutes left.
Lassiter put up the finishing touches scoring with a follow-up lay-up with 41 seconds left to extend their lead to eight, 88-80.
June Mar Fajardo had another herculean effort for San Miguel, finishing with a solid double-doiuble of 19 points and 18 rebounds, to go along with three blocks.
Abueva had an all-around performance of 16 markers, 10 boards, and six assists for Phoenix, but he fouled out at the 1:06 mark of the fourth.
Game 3 is scheduled on Easter Sunday, April 21 in Araneta.
San Miguel (92) — Lassiter 24, Fajardo 19, Romeo 14, Cabagnot 8, Pessumal 8, Santos 7, Ross 7, Tubid 3, Standhardinger 2, Rosser 0, Nabong 0.
Phoenix (82) — Abueva 16, Wright 13, Perkins 12, Chua 12, Jazul 12, Mallari 8, Intal 4, Marcelo 2, Kramer 2, Mendoza 1.
Quarters: 13-21, 37-46, 63-63, 92-82.
(Image from PBA Media Group)