Reigning five-time MVP June Mar Fajardo checked out in the final minutes of the third period in the game against the Aces on Sunday. He never returned to the floor for San Miguel, but the Beermen still went on to demolish Alaska, 114-96, in the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Fajardo finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, but the Beermen hardly needed their main man with Christian Standhardinger, who missed five games this conference, and Arwind Santos conspiring in the final period as the team zoomed to its seventh win to close the elimination round.
Although out of the race for the twice-to-beat edge, the Beermen are assured at least of the fifth seed and the best-of-three semifinals with a 7-4 win-loss record.
Standhardinger was still recovering from an injury and the original plan was to break him in and give him limited minutes. But he impressed and dropped 14 of his 23 points in the fourth period, while Santos took over from the outside, making four 3-pointers after checking in for Fajardo late in the third.
"Christian is not yet at full strength. He is still rehabilitating his injury," said San Miguel head coach Leo Austria. "We all know we're already in the quarterfinals. But this game is really important for us. I'm so happy with the players because they showed the sense of urgency. We don't want to head to the quarterfinals on a losing note."
It was Alex Cabagnot, though, who led the Beermen in scoring with 31 points. San Miguel was struggling to find its groove in the first half, but Cabagnot kept the team afloat with 20 points in the first 24 minutes of action.
His 3 with 1:40 remaining in the game gave the Beermen an insurmountable 112-92 lead.
"I'm happy for Alex," Austria said. "He was able to save us in the first half."
Alaska had no answer to San Miguel's offensive onslaught. While the Beermen shot one 3-pointer after another, the Aces struggled to pile up points.
The struggle will seemingly continue with the trek to the playoffs suddenly becoming tough for the Aces, who dropped to a seventh place tie with NLEX at 4-6.
Chris Banchero led Alaska with 22 points, four rebounds, and five assists.
San Miguel 114 - Cabagnot 31, Standhardinger 23, Santos 17, Pessumal 14, Fajardo 13, Ross 10, Lassiter 4, Rosser 2, Zamar 0, Mamaril 0, Tubid 0, Vigil 0, Nabong 0.
Alaska 96 - Banchero 22, Cruz 13, Thoss 12, Baclao 12, Teng 11, Potts 6, Pascual 6, Casio 4, Enciso 2, Exciminiano 2, Galliguez 2, Racal 2, Ayaay 2, Babilonia 0.
Quarterscores: 21-27, 45-50, 79-71, 114-96.
- Ping Exciminiano suffered a cut on his upper right eye after he and Chris Ross scrambled for the ball with 4:01 left in the payoff period.
- Terrence Romeo sat out the match. According to Austria, Romeo was suffering from dehydration and tonsillitis.
Alaska - vs NorthPort on March 27 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum