WITH all but two of its nine players fielded in scoring, San Miguel Beer bagged a crucial win on Wednesday to keep its Grand Slam hopes alive.
The Beermen bumped into a team appearing, on paper, as ready to surrender. Instead, it proved stingy and tough as nails.
The Phoenix Fuel Masters fought with undiminished pride and almost scalped SMB, leading big in the early going as they looked set to be a genuine giant-slayer.
And even when only mere ticks remained, Phoenix looked menacingly able to upset SMB.
The Beermen had only their import to thank for as Terrence Watson stabbed Phoenix twice with hard-to-sink baskets and bailed SMB out of harm’s way.
Watson’s heroics capped a 26 team-high points, giving SMB a 109-107 victory for a 7-3 record that also saw four other Beermen score in double figures.
June Mar Fajardo, who fired 41 points two games back, had 24 points in another sterling effort for SMB, with Alex Cabagnot also tossing in 24, Arwind Santos 15 and Marcio Lassiter 13 as the quartet more than made up for the lethargic showing of the usually fiery Chris Ross. Also without a point like Ross was Ronald Tubid, while Matt Ganuelas-Rosser and Gabby Espinas had 4 and 3 points, respectively.
SMB coach Leo Austria praised Phoenix’s tough stand “even as they are already out of contention.” With their final 3-8 card, the Fuel Masters bade farewell to the PBA Governors’ Cup.
But for Austria, the win over Phoenix should be a big boost in SMB’s game tomorrow (Sunday) against powerhouse Meralco.
All eyes are on the bearded Watson as he battles Allen Durham, the Meralco import now considered as the season-ending conference’s toughest reinforcement thus far.
Watson is riding on the crest of his unbeaten streak of three games since he arrived to replace Tarik Bridgeman, the Wendell McKinis replacement with the unenviable reputation of assembling a puny total of 6 points in two games—the lowest ever by an import since the league’s birth in 1975.
Tomorrow’s outing would be an acid test, indeed, for Watson as a game-winning performance from him could cement his stint at SMB.
If, by now, Watson isn’t aware of SMB’s Grand Slam dreams, he’s got a problem big time.