Defending champion San Miguel Beer came back from an early 12-point deficit behind Terrence Romeo and June Mar Fajardo's late-game heroics to take down TNT, 80-78, drawing first blood in their 2019 PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal series Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Romeo, the former three-time PBA Scoring champion, fired 15 points to help SMB get going from a poor shooting night.
Fajardo took over from there, making two crucial putbacks, along with a key foul shot with 2.2 seconds left to give San Miguel the marginal lead, 80-78.
TNT had one last shot at winning the game, but Roger Pogoy's desperation three-point attempt went hard off the board, allowing San Miguel to move within a victory and advancing to the semifinal round.
Asked how it feels to beat his former team, the 5-foot-10 Romeo said in the post-game interview that he's merely treating the KaTropa just like any other playoff series.
"We just needed to play focused. So I just had the same motivation. We just simply needed to win so we can move forward to the next round," Romeo said after the game.
The Beermen can finish off the KaTropa with another win on Monday in Game 2 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
It was a sorry loss for the KaTropa, who dictated the tempo of the match from the very start of the series-opening match.
Jayson Castro actually gave TNT its biggest lead at 22-10 on a jumper late in the opening quarter.
But SMB, eyeing for an unprecedented fifth straight All-Filipino conference crown, methodically chopped down TNT's lead in the next three quarters.
Aiding Romeo and Fajardo were Marcio Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot, who chipped in 15 and 12 points, respectively.
Arwind Santos had a quiet eight points, while Christian Standhardinger chipped in 10 boards, along with five points.
Troy Rosario and Pogoy led TNT with 23 and 16 points.
San Miguel 80 - Lassiter 15, Fajardo 15, Romeo 15, Cabagnot 12, Santos 8, Ross 6, Standahrdinger 5, Rosser 2, Pessumal 2, Nabong 0.
TNT 78 - Rosario 23, Pogoy 16, Trollano 11, Williams 9, Taha 8, Castro 8, Reyes 2, A. Semerad 1, Carey 0, Heruela 0, D. Semerad 0, Washington 0.
Quarters: 13-22, 39-46, 60-65, 80-78.
- Both teams shot poorly from the field. San Miguel managed to win the game despite making just 32-of-81 from the floor for only 39 percent. On the other hand, TNT did much worse wit its 30-percent shooting clip (24-of-80).
- The Beermen lost in the battle of the boards, 51-59. But they made a living inside the shaded lane with their sizeable 42-28 advantage in points in the paint.
- The "Blur" Jayson Castro was a non-factor on offense, scoring just eight points on 2-of-9 shooting. But he managed to contribute in other facets with his six rebounds and seven assists.
April 8 - Game 2 7:00PM at the Smart Araneta Coliseum