It seems all it took was a bloody grudge match as the San Miguel Beermen got a measure of revenge as they took down the Air21 Express, 101-88. It was a tough, physical, tension-filled game in what figures to be a bitter rivalry in the making. Leading the way once again were Reggie Williams and June Mar Fajardo. Williams finished with 27 points (4 triples, 55.5 eFG%), 8 rebounds, and 3 assists in 43 minutes. Despite dealing with foul trouble in the 2nd half, Fajardo still led the locals with 20 points (83.6 TS%) and 9 rebounds (5 offensive, 15.3 OREB%).

The game started out in typical San Miguel fashion as they found themselves down 12-4 no thanks to their 4 straight turnovers, 3 of them ill-advised entry passes to Fajardo. However, the return of  team captain Chris Ross served to jumpstart the squad as they went on a 27-11 tear to end the quarter. From then on, it was all about Air21 trying to catch up and cut down several double-digit leads. Next up, we’ll look at our keys to the game and other notables as we answer how San Miguel survived this slugfest.

Keys to the Game

Quicken the Pace

The Beermen weren’t exactly running and gunning this but were reliant on something that has been the most inconsistent aspect of their game all-conference long: their defense, most especially in the 4th quarter. Because of that, they were able to break out in transition, scoring most of their 12 fastbreak points in the period, thanks to the combined efforts of Ross (1 steal) and Sol Mercado (2 steals). They were also pretty successful in punishing Air21 for their mistakes, as they scored 15 points off of their 17 turnovers.

 Take Care of the Rock

Looking at the numbers, one could say San Miguel didn’t do a good job containing Dominique Sutton and Asi Taulava.


Dominique Sutton

26 50% 14 49.7% 3 6

Asi Taulava

18 50% 16 52.8% 3 4

True they did go crazy in certain stretches, especially Sutton in the 3rd quarter. But San Miguel was able to lock them down late in the 4th, rendering them almost nonfactors. It also helped that, even though they generated a lot of freethrows, they struggled mightily in converting as they only made a combined 14 of their 30 attempts. The Beermen also did a good job harassing them as they forced the two to commit 10 turnovers, helping to fuel the transition attack.

What was also noteworthy was that San Miguel did not allow anyone else to really blow up in this game. Last conference, Sean Anthony, Joseph Yeo, Mac Cardona, and Jonas Villanueva were bombing away from the field. In this game, Anthony only played 3 minutes before being ejected, Yeo only scored 3 points in the 2nd half after scoring 9 in the 1st while Cardona and Villanueva only scored 12 combined points. The only other player to score in double figures was Aldrech Ramos with 12 (2 triples). The Beermen did surrender points to Sutton and Taulava early on but managed to not only lock them down but prevented other locals from stepping up.

Take Care of the Glass

While San Miguel gave up a lot of offensive rebounds (16, 32 OREB%), they did a good job in not allowing Air21 to take advantage, as they only had 7 2nd chance points.


Dominique Sutton

44 6 13.1%

Asi Taulava

42 3 6.9%

Mark Borboran

15 3 19.2%

Aldrech Ramos

32 1 3.0%

For the amount of minutes they had on the court, Sutton was the only one who was effective in grabbing and scoring on those 2nd chance opportunities, as evidenced by their OREB%. Borboran did very well but couldn’t convert. A missing piece for Air21 was Camson, who only played for 5 minutes and produced 2 fouls and 0 rebounds. The result was lot of one-and-done’s and finished defensive possessions for San Miguel.

Key Match-up

The Kraken vs The Rock

This time around, Fajardo won both the battle and the war as he had similar numbers to Taulava despite playing less minutes. Fajardo was also much more efficient, as he only missed 2 shots from the field and one from the line vs Taulava who gave away a lot of points from missed freethrows. We also have to take note that Fajardo already had 17 points and 9 rebounds before he had to sit down with his 4th and 5th fouls, ending the night with a 3-point play that helped seal the win.

Early on, Taulava tried to pull him away from the paint the same way Greg Slaughter. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t have the same consistency as it just devolved into a battle in the post, where Fajardo actually held his own, a stark contrast to their last meeting.

Fajardo got the better of his veteran counterpart this time around. (Photo Credit: Nuki Sabio, GMA News Online)

Fajardo got the better of his veteran counterpart this time around. (Photo Credit: Nuki Sabio, GMA News Online)

Game Notes

The Dynamic Duo

Though Williams and Fajardo led the team in scoring, best buds Ross and Mercado were the ones who finished and clinched the game for the Beermen as they led a furious fastbreak attack in the 4th.


Chris Ross

24 35.7% 52.2% 2 7 2

Sol Mercado

34 72.2% 72.2% 7 5 1

Ross leaned on his ability to draw fouls to make up for a bad day from the field. The ball movement was also visibly better with him on the court as he assisted on 18.9% of the team’s field goals while he was on the court, something they sorely missed in the last 4 games. Mercado on the other hand had probably his best game of the conference considering how well he played on both ends. He was everywhere in this game slashing, dishing, and even helping on the boards (10.3 TREB%). This is the kind of play San Miguel envisioned when they traded for him, as he was aggressive with a purpose and not just mindlessly driving and hoping for foul calls. As I said once before, he’s best as an attacker, as it also opens up more opportunities to dish to his teammates.

Something interesting to note is how well these 2 play together, even when their styles seemingly overlap. The result was a very aggressive defensive backcourt and it’s something I hope Todd Purves utilizes a lot more in the future.

The Ross Effect = ball movement and defensive intensity (Photo Credit: Pranz Kaeno Billones, Sports 5)

The Ross Effect = ball movement and defensive intensity (Photo Credit: Pranz Kaeno Billones, Sports 5)


A lot of San Miguel’s success came from the FT line as they hit 71.4% of them, a pretty good number. This time, it wasn’t just Fajardo or Williams getting there as Ross and Mercado joined in the party.


June Mar Fajardo

9 88.9%

Reggie Williams

9 77.8%

Chris Ross

8 75.0%

Sol Mercado

7 42.9%

Whether it was by his own initiative or the coaching staff’s, I liked the decision to have Williams take all of the 4 technical freethrows in the 1st (he went 4 of 4). It served to instill some confidence in him and also helped him start off his scoring on some easy points, making up for the bad shooting day vs Ginebra. Another surprise is Fajardo. He has now made 19 of his last 20 FT attempts, including a perfect 11-for-11 performance vs Ginebra. What was most notable was the change in his shooting form as he now has a much shorter windup, making his shot much more consistent. Kudos to the coaches for working on it as this makes him more dangerous than ever. If he can stay around that 75-80% range, that would make him a different beast altogether as opposing teams will be punished even if they foul him intentionally.

Feeding the Kraken

Speaking of Fajardo, San Miguel still has issues with regards to their halfcourt offense. A lot of Air21’s runs were a result of slow setups (San Miguel would start their sets at 10 seconds on the shot clock) and ignoring their big guy down low. There should be no reason for Fajardo to only be getting touches every 6 minutes or so. He doesn’t even have to get shot attempts, but to be able to distribute as well since he is a willing passer. Playing inside-out will open up a lot more options for the team. Hopefully, they keep this in mind going forward.

Where Have You Guys Been?

This is what the Beermen have been missing: consistent local support. For this game at least, they got a lot of that. Arwind Santos was pretty good as he tallied 10 points and 9 rebounds. What was most impressive was his passing, as he had 6 assists (10.8 AST%) and only 1 turnover. Even though he didn’t shoot as well from the field, he was picking his spots and making smart plays. He was also hustling and did a decent job in holding his own against Sutton, especially in the 2nd half. Production like this makes it a lot easier to justify playing him a ton of minutes.

Another player that stepped up big time in Fajardo’s absence was Doug Kramer. Seemingly his first good game since being traded last season, he had 9 points (80% from the field, most of them jumpers), 3 offensive rebounds (19.6 OREB%), and 2 assists. He wasn’t a negative this time around as the Beermen even went on a big run with him manning the paint.

Ronald Tubid was a mixed bag as he hit 2 triples and helped to get Anthony ejected. But he was also hit with a flagrant foul that served to fire up Sutton. Maierhofer was great once again in limited playing time (9 minutes, 2 offensive rebounds, 23.2 OREB%). Even Justin Chua held his own in defending both Sutton and Taulava in his 6 minutes.

Contributions from almost every local was huge. (Photo Credit: Pranz Kaeno Billones, Sports 5)

Contributions from almost every local was huge. (Photo Credit: Pranz Kaeno Billones, Sports 5)

This is the kind win that the Beermen and their fans have been waiting for; gritty, physical, no-back-down mentality. We can only wonder why it took them 9 games to give us this kind of performance. Hopefully, this serves to jumpstart the team as it goes into the playoffs. In ending with a 5-4 record, they can land anywhere from the 3rd to 5th spot. With any luck, that 62.5% chance to make it into the top 4 pans out. Maybe they can finally do what they haven’t done in a while, finish strong.