The San Miguel Beermen are nearing full strength with the return of June Mar Fajardo and now they are the hottest team in the league with four straight wins after defeating the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 109-97, Saturday night in the 2018 PBA Governors' Cup at the Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna
Alex Cabagnot was the Best Player of the Game with 24 points, six rebounds, and eight assists in match.
"We know we need to make a late push for the playoffs," Cabagnot said. "Everyone wants June Mar to come back but I just want him to be 100% healthy. Now that he came back, we welcomed him with open arms."
The Elasto Painters had a huge performance in the first quarter as they took a 31-23 lead with young guards Ed Daquioag and Maverick Ahanmisi combining for 16 points in the first 12 minutes. However, the Beermen quickly turned the game around in the second, winning it 36-24.
SMB waxed hot from downtown as they made seven triples in the second period to take a 59-55 lead at the half. The Beermen took control of the game as built a double-digit lead, 83-72, with 2:11 remaining after a layup from Marcia Lassiter.
The San Miguel Beermen broke the game wide open early in the fourth quarter after back-to-back triples from Kelly Nabong and Kevin Murphy to lead the Elasto Painters 95-77. The Beermen led by as many as 19 points in the game.
Christian Standhardinger added another double-double to his tally this conference with 22 points and 18 rebounds. What's more amazing was that 12 of his rebounds came from the offensive side. SMB also got big numbers from Murphy who finished with 28 points, including five triples while Lassiter and Arwind Santos combined for 25 points and 14 rebounds.
Although the Elasto Painters still have a game left in their schedule, they no longer have a shot at forcing a tie for the final playoff spot as they can only finish with three wins while TNT and Meralco both have four already.
It was a tough grind all conference long for Rain or Shine as their preparations severely hampered by their key guys' inclusion in the Asian Games and FIBA Asian Qualifier competitions. Their schedule was packed in the latter part of the conference and they were also saddled with personnel issues. Raymond Almazan continued his absence while Beau Belga was still unavailable because of plantar fasciitis. Chris Tiu was also not available due to an illness after setting a new career-high in their last game.
Ahamnisi and Jewel Ponferrada led ROS with 26 and 15 points, respectively. The Elasto Painters were hoping to get a bounce-back effort from their import Terrence Watson who had a forgettable performance against the Phoenix Fuel Masters. However, Watson was underwhelming once again in his first meeting with his former SMB teammates as he only had 13 points although he grabbed 15 rebounds.
SMB 109: Murphy 28, Cabagnot 26, Standhardinger 22, Santos 13, Lassiter 12, Nabong 3, Ross 2, Fajardo 2, Vigil 2, Heruela 1.
ROS 97: Ahanmisi 26, Ponferrada 15, Watson 13, Norwood 9, Torres 8, Daquioag 6, Casino 4, Washington 3, Borboran 5, Maiquez 3, Nambatac 3, Yap 2.
Quarters: 23-31, 59-55, 89-75, 109-97
June Mar Fajardo finally saw action for the Beemen in this conference although he played very limited minutes. The Kraken, who usually lodges around 40 minutes per game when he's 100% healthy, played only 10 minutes, finishing with two points, two rebounds, and an assist.
Fajardo's mere presence on the floor all but guarantees his record-setting fifth reign as the PBA's Most Valuable Player.
ROS: November 3 versus NLEX Road Warriors at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum
SMB: November 3 versus Meralco Bolts at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum