With three minutes remaining, the San Miguel Beermen were able to field Gilas pool rookie Arnold Van Opstal who got the Mall of Asia Arena crowd excited for what seemed to be the first time in what seemed to be a long time. Until then, the San Miguel Beermen held such a commanding lead over the Blackwater Elite that any run the Elite mounted, the defending champions were bound to answer back, leading to the 118-93 final score at the buzzer.
Blackwater started the game hot, jumping the gun and going for an early 7-2 lead against the defending champions. But one timeout later, the Elite found themselves at the wrong end of an 11-0 run with the Beermen taking control of the game from then on.
While the Beermen started off rocky, it was fortunate for them that Alex Cabagnot’s face mask did not bother him too much as he supplied them with much needed instant offense, triggering the 11-0 run that got them the lead. Meanwhile the Elite continued to chuck up blanks, finishing the game with an okay 40 percent field goal percentage. Okay against any other team, but not against the defending champions.
Before the first half break, the Beermen sapped the life out of Blackwater’s offense, forcing the Elite to show flashes of individual brilliance while they played team basketball to build a comfy 25 point lead going into the third. Most notable was the contribution by Gabby Espinas who shot 5 of 5 from the field for the Beermen, adding to the woes of Coach Leo Isaac’s team.
Gabby Espinas led the Beermen’s bench and allowed Coach Leo to rest the starters longer than usual, resulting in only Marcio Lassiter playing more than 30 minutes in this game. His strong play got him player of the game honors with his 22 points and 6 rebounds off a spectacular 9 of 11 clip from the field which included 1 3 pointer. It also allowed the SMB bench to outscore the Elite’s 53-50.
Despite the game’s billing as a matchup between two generations of FEU Finals MVP’s, neither of them were a factor in the game. Arwind Santos put up a paltry 8 points on atrocious 30 percent field goal shooting while Mac Belo was hardly felt on offense, managing to contribute only 4 points off 5 attempts.
While the Elite showed signs of life in the second half, Coach Leo Austria was able to quickly snuff it out with a well timed timeout followed by a well drawn play to kill the momentum being built by the Elite.
The victory punches San Miguel’s ticket to the Quarter Finals, ensuring them a chance to defend their Philippine Cup championship at the post-season. Meanwhile Blackwater must fight to find better seeding as the loss places them at the middle of the pack with a 4-4 record.