San Miguel 103 – Star 97
San Miguel import Charles Rhodes barely saw action in the first three quarters of the game after picking up four personal fouls by the second, and yet the Beermen still managed to dominate the Star Hotshots, en route to a 103-97 win, showing why they are the best team in the league today.
Marcio Lassiter cooked from the outside, Chris Ross played like his usual two-way defend-on-one-end-and-orchestrate-on-another self, June Mar Fajardo protected the rim and out-rebounded everyone, and Arwind Santos knocked down jumpers as if they were lay-ups as the Beermen remained undefeated in the conference with a 3-0 slate.
Mind you, this is a Hotshots squad with a stacked backcourt rotation, which includes this conference’s reigning Finals MVP Paul Lee, on top of high-level guards like Allein Maliksi, Mark Barroca, and Jio Jalalon, to name a few.
And yet the Beermen’s locals controlled most of the game. The way they played, it’s like San Miguel can parade an all-Filipino group in this import-laden conference and still contend, although of course they have to sign one just because they have to.
The Hotshots lost grip of second spot with the loss as they fell to 4-2 in the tournament.
The Beermen got the afterburners going in the third quarter, running on every opportunity as they left the Hotshots biting their dust. They led by as much as 19 points late in the third, and Rhodes returned to provide even more damage.
Rhodes preserved his foul total well, keeping it at four personals, while frustrating Star reinforcement Tony Mitchell, who fouled out late in the game.
Rhodes out-dueled Mitchell in the import match-up, finishing with 29 points (11-of-14 shooting) and 10 rebounds in less than 31 minutes. Mitchell had 22 points and 11 boards.
“Our import, nag-compete siya. Yung ego niya [ayaw patalo]. I hope ma-sustain niya ito [performance] for the next game. Nakukuha na niya yung larong Pinoy and yung sistema namin. He is a good help especially when he plays in the post. He complements our system,” San Miguel head coach Leo Austria said.
Maliksi and Lee teamed up to bring down the lead to single-digits, with Lee’s triple with just over a minute left pulling the Hotshots within 99-95.
But Lee missed on another long-range try under the final minute, while Ross scored on a drive on the other side to put the game away.
“Alam namin from the start this is a tough game for us. Galing sa talo ang Star sa Ginebra. I was a little bit worried because we came off a break. I opted not to practice on Friday because it was Holy Week. Pero malaki naman tiwala ko sa kanila because they know how to win. Yung ibang players even went to the gym,” Austria said.
Ross had 19 points, four rebounds, and four assists, shooting 7-of-12 from the field and even hitting two triples. Lassiter tallied 16 points, hitting four of his five three-point tries. Santos finished with 13 points while Fajardo added a double-double effort of 10 points and 11 boards.
Ian Sangalang led Star locals with 18 markers while Lee and Maliksi contributed 16 and 11 points, respectively.