The San Miguel Beermen leaned on Dez Wells to survive a late challenge by Magnolia in the dying seconds and carve out a 90-89 win in the PBA Governors' Cup on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Wells was able to come up with the game-winning swipe on Ian Sangalang, who went up for a shot underneath the basket after cleaning up an airball by Mark Barroca in a set play off a timeout.
Wells finished with 33 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals for the Beermen, who stayed unbeaten in four games after the win. June Mar Fajardo threw in 16 points and six boards, while Alex Cabagnot added 13.
No team was able to score in the final two minutes, with Wells' lay-in at the 2:11 mark eventually serving as the clincher for SMB.
"I know from the start that this will be a tough game for us, that it will be an exciting game," said coach Leo Austria. "We committed a lot of turnovers, Luckily the players refused to lose. They really know the importance of this game."
"Credit to our opponent because they knew how we play and they had a good game plan but as I've said, most of our players, although we had a hectic schedule in the past few days, they were able to give and show energy," he added.
That energy came out late in the first quarter, where SMB built a 10-point lead thanks to 15 points from a quick-fire Wells. They slowed down in the second period, though, and allowed Magnolia to go up 41-39 with 3:10 in left in the first half after a 15-2 burst behind Romeo Travis.
The Hotshots stayed in control entering the second half and looked to pull away after erecting a 65-55 lead midway through the third frame, but an aggressive SMB offense relied on Wells again to make it a close affair until the payoff period.
SMB found an opportunity to break the game wide open after Travis went down with a leg injury with 4:44 left, but the Beermen weren't able to take advantage as an all-Filipino Magnolia side kept pressing on defense. Unfortunately for the Hotshots, their offense fired blanks without their import dictating the tempo and went 0-for-7 in the clutch after Sangalang's jumper with 2:39 left.
"We didn't get a lot of breaks, especially in the last possession, but that's part of the game. I told the boys we didn't get a lot of good breaks so we had to focus and play hard because this Magnolia team is really out there to beat us," said Austria.
The coach singled out Wells as the defining factor of the win after he played through cramps in the win.
"He really wanted to win. You saw his leadership," Austria raved. "We asked him if he wanted to be replaced, he said, 'No, I want to win this game, I can do it.' And that's what happened."
San Miguel will stake its unblemished record on Sunday against a Ginebra side looking to recover from a stunning loss in Dubai.
"We'll take a look at the video first. I'm sure, coming from a loss in Dubai they had a lot of time to prepare. We expect there's a lot of energy from them because they're thinking we're tired," he said. "Ginebra's always a contender. Especially against San Miguel, they are well prepared. Let's see what will happen. But I'm banking on the pride of the players."
Travis still ended up with 31 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and four steals even if his night was cut short. Paul Lee added 22 points on 5-for-7 shooting from long range, while Sangalang added 14 points, seven rebounds and seven blocks in a losing effort for the Hotshots, who slid to 3-2 in the standings.
San Miguel (90) -- Wells 33, Fajardo 16, Cabagnot 13, Santos 9, Ross 6, Standhardinger 5, Nabong 3, Pessumal 3, Lassiter 2, Zamar 0.
Magnolia (89) -- Travis 31, Lee 22, Sangalang 14, Barroca 7, Dela Rosa 7, Pingris 5, Melton 3, Reavis 0, Jalalon 0, Herndon 0.
Quarters: 31-21, 48-46, 72-72, 89-90.
Marcio Lassiter made his first appearance of the conference and finished with two points and three boards in just seven minutes of play.
SMB made six of their 11 triples during that torrid first quarter but only shot 5-for-21 from distance the rest of the way.
San Miguel vs. Ginebra on Oct. 13 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Magnolia vs. Blackwater on Oct. 16 at the Ynares Center-Antipolo.