The San Miguel Beermen played to their strengths to build a big enough lead in the first half to allow them to brave the second half storm the Meralco Bolts put on. At 101 – 86, the Beermen were on the brink of blowing a 31 point 1st half lead, but held on long enough to make a last minute resurgence.
Coach Norman Black came into this game having done his homework, devising a gameplan that focused mainly on preventing the reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo from getting his usual MVP numbers. This gameplan both worked and backfired at the same time.
In the 1st half, much of San Miguel’s offense came from their motion offense. They moved the ball, trying to break Meralco’s 2-3 zone. Unable to force the ball into June Mar, Alex Cabagnot carried most of the scoring load, breaking the zone and helping mount the hefty 31 point lead before the half.
Cabagnot finished the game with 20 crucial points for the Beermen but was forced to exit the game with only 21:20 minutes of play because of a broken nose sustained from a collision with Cliff Hodge to start the 2nd half. This was when Meralco began to stage their run. Like a blitzkrieg, the Bolts bolted on San Miguel and began turning up the tempo.
The increased pace of the 2nd half allowed Chris Newsome to finish with 16 points while Joseph Yeo knocked down 3 3 pointers off transition and broken plays. The sudden surge helped cut the San Miguel lead to 16 before entering the 4th quarter.
But as the lead shrank, so did San Miguel’s complacency. Playing without Cabagnot who served as their offensive anchor in the 1st half, the Beermen turned to their basics and began regaining control of the pace.
Their 1st goal was to start finding June Mar beneath the basket, and so they did. June Mar worked for every one of his 11 points this game, and especially his 14 rebounds, but each time he got the ball and scored, it was like a thorn was removed from San Miguel’s side.
As the time wound down, the more deliberate pace of play began to favor the offense oriented Beermen. All they had to do in that 4th quarter was not get out-scored by that much, and that’s exactly what they did. The Bolts were grounded by the decreased pace, dictated by the long arms of June Mar and crafty hands of Chris Ross and Ronald Tubid. They managed to win the quarter, but by only a point. Nowhere near enough to dig them out of the first half hole they got themselves into.
Reports indicated that Alex Cabagnot was not able to re-enter the game following his collision with Cliff Hodge due to a dislocated nosebridge. It remains unclear if he will need to miss any games as a result.