June Mar Fajardo (right) of the San Miguel Beermen muscles his way to the basket past rookie Jason Perkins of the Phoenix Fuelmasters during the opening night of the PBA's 43rd season at the Big Dome on Sunday night. | PBA Images

Beermen douse Fuel Masters in PBA opener
Denison Rey A. Dalupang (philstar.com) - December 18, 2017 - 1:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — The San Miguel Beermen kicked off their Philippine Cup title defense on a high note, besting the Phoenix Fuelmasters, 104-96, in the opening night of the PBA’s 43rd season Sunday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

June Mar Fajardo, Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter and tallied 23, 22 and 20 points, respectively to power the Beermen.

The league’s four-time MVP in Fajardo notched 16 rebounds and dropped four dimes to go with his team-leading scoring. He finished with only two points in the opening period, but his stroke kicked into high gear in the succeeding periods. He registered 17 points in the second half alone.

"The first win is always really hard, especially for our team. Everybody prepared hard for us,” said San Miguel head coach Leo Austria. "Forutnately all of our starters scored in double figures.” 

“Pinakita nila na they can defend the title but it's a long shot,” the three-time Coach of the Year said of wards. “Right now, we have to rely on ourselves. I’m very confident in them as long as we're in top shape.

Chris Ross and Arwind Santos chimed in 16 and 14 points, respectively, to add to the effort.

Meanwhile, Jeff Chan paced Phoenix with 18 markers. Gilas sharpshooter Matthew Wright added 12 while new acquisition Justin Chua contributed 11. 

The Fuel Masters led by a point in the second period before falling into a 19-point hole. They managed to score 10 straight to cut the deficit to just eight, but they weren’t just armed enough to take on the stacked San Miguel side — notoriously fielding only six to seven players — that tapped its bench for reinforcement.

San Miguel takes on Meralco Bolts next, while Phoenix tangles with Kia both on December 27 at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.

The Scores:

SAN MIGUEL 104 — Fajardo 23, Cabagnot 22, Lassiter 20, Ross 16, Santos 14, Pessumal 5, Ganuelas-Rosser 4, Agovida 0, Heruela 0, Lanete 0, Mabulac 0, Mamaril 0, Vigil 0.

PHOENIX 96 — Chan 18, Wright 12, Alolino 11, Chua 11, Wilson 11, Dehesa 8, Kramer 6, Jazul 4, Eriobu 2, Intal 2, Revilla 1.

Quarters: 23-18, 47-37, 79-68, 104-96.


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