SMB lethal at full strength

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
SMB lethal at full strength
Converge guard Maverick Ahanmisi blocks a shot by San Miguel center Moala Tautuaa with Justin Arana looking on.
Jun Mendoza

MANILA, Philippines — Its “playoffs mode” fully activated, San Miguel Beer bamboozled youth-laden Converge, 114-96, to plant one foot in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals yesterday at the PhilSports Arena.

The defending champions unleashed an early barrage from Terrence Romeo, CJ Perez, June Mar Fajardo and Devon Scott to take command of the best-of-three quarterfinals opener and expertly kept the FiberXers at bay up until the final buzzer.

The fifth-seeded Beermen can finish off the No. 4 FiberXers in Saturday’s Game 2 and book a ticket to the best-of-five semis.

“We have to work harder in Game 2. If we played hard here, we have to play harder next game,” said acting coach Jorge Gallent.

The battle-scarred Beermen held the FiberXers’ vaunted three-point–shooting and running game in check to clear the way for the 1-0 running start. Against the Beermen’s defense, Converge made only six of their 41 attempts from deep – off its average of 13.4 in the elims – while getting only seven points in transition – half of its regular 14.3-point fastbreak production.

“We practiced hard for two days and we really prepared for their three-point shooting and running game. So I commend the players, they did all of what we wanted them to do, that’s why we got the win today,” said Gallent.

Perez led SMB in scoring with 25 while Scott posted 23 plus 12 rebounds, Fajardo added 19-16 and Romeo netted 13. Fajardo and Romeo were on sick bay when Converge won their elims duel, 106-102, and showed how much more lethal the Beermen are with them around.

After yielding the game’s first basket, the reigning Philippine Cup titlists asserted their might and led by as many as 31 at 80-49.

The FiberXers managed to get to within 98-87 in the fourth but Fajardo, Scott and Perez sparked a fiery counter to restore a 112-92 count going to the last 2:24.

SMB spoiled the 41-point explosion of Quincy Miller for Converge and got the job done even without big man Vic Manuel, who sat out due to “Iliotibial band syndrome” injury.

Noting how they allowed Converge to get within striking distance in the final canto, Gallent stressed the importance of playing relentlessly all throughout.

Third seed Barangay Ginebra also went one-up against No. 6 NorthPort in their race-to-two contest after hammering a 118-102 beatdown.

Justin Brownlee (39 points) fueled a 14-1 windup in the third to break the game open then did what was necessary to complete the win and move to the doorstep of the Final Four.

LA Tenorio hit a new milestone with his four triples, dislodging Ronnie Magsanoc (1,171) from fourth overall in the all-time list with his 1,174 total makes. The PBA’s Iron Man is on track to surge ahead of No. 3 James Yap (1,178).

Arvin Tolentino (29) and Robert Bolick (21) bannered scoring in a losing cause for NorthPort.


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