Fajardo-less Beermen bank on Tautuaa, rout Hotshots

Fajardo-less Beermen bank on Tautuaa, rout Hotshots

Olmin Leyba (Philstar.com) - March 8, 2020 - 10:44pm

Games Wednesday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. – TNT KaTropa vs Phoenix Super LPG
7 p.m. – NLEX vs NorthPort

MANILA, Philippines – San Miguel Beer proved it's still a potent brew despite the absence of injured superstar June Mar Fajardo.

Adjusting to life without the newly-minted six-time MVP, the Beermen kicked off their title-retention bid in the Season 45 PBA Philippine Cup in style, dismantling contender Magnolia, 94-78, Sunday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Big man Mo Tautuaa, thrust into the limelight after Fajardo was sidelined by a fractured shin, lived up to the challenge and banged in a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds and two blocks in an array of solid opening-night performers for SMB.

Terrence Romeo fired 19 and issued seven assists in a rare start while veteran Arwind also posted twin figures in scoring (18) and rebounding (15) and Marcio Lassiter, wearing a face mask to protect a broken nose, rifled in 17 with five dimes as SMB survived its first outing minus "The Kraken."

"I commend the team, everybody stepped up. Motivated sila, na-inspire kay June Mar who in spite of the situation, he came here and gave his support," said SMB coach Leo Austria of Fajardo, who used a mobility scooter to receive the MVP award earlier and sat on the SMB bench in the first 24 minutes.

Paul Lee (19 markers), led the Hotshots, the 2018 and 2019 Philippine Cup runners-up who are tipped to be among the leading contenders for the PBA's crown jewel.

Preseason trade acquisition Jackson Corpuz made a solid debut (16-13) as Season 44 Mythical Second Team member Ian Sangalang dished out 16-10.

With Fajardo cheering them on, the Beermen stormed to a 45-32 upperhand after detonating a 13-3 salvo to end the second canto.

Picking up momentum, coach Leo Austria's charges opened the third with a 15-4 blast anchored on three triples from Lassiter and Cabagnot to widen the gap to 60-37.

The Hotshots mounted a searing rally ignited by Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon and closed in to within 63-56 but SMB countered with six unanswered points to restore a 13-point spread entering the final period.

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