By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The San Miguel Beermen banked on their highly efficient offensive game and outdueled the Phoenix Fuel Masters, 108-100, to grab their first win in the ongoing 2022 PBA Philippine Cup.
It was a classic San Miguel offensive show the whole game as Vic Manuel, June Mar Fajardo, and CJ Perez torched the whole Phoenix squad and capitalized on every mismatch they got.
San Miguel grabbed the early lead in the first quarter but Phoenix came back quickly courtesy of great starts from their backcourt rookie tandem of Tyler Tio and Encho Serrano.
With Jason Perkins and Matthew Wright struggling early from the field, the two rookies provided the much-needed offensive punch head coach Topex Robinson needed.
Aside from their brave showing against the veteran San Miguel team, Tio and Serrano also helped Phoenix regain the momentum and never trailed by as much as 10 points during the whole first half.
Adding to San Miguel’s woes was their salty three-point shooting as they only converted four out of their 26 total attempts.
San Miguel’s head coach Leo Austria then turned to his main offensive play when his team struggled to sink a shot from long distance – find Fajardo and get out of the way.
PBA’s one and only six-time MVP then put the entire Beermen squad on his shoulders and bulldozed his way into the paint for some easy deuces that helped his team re-capture the lead.
The entire second half turned into a dogfight as Phoenix’s resiliency rose to the occasion and engaged in a shootout with the Beermen.
It was at the two-minute mark when the Beermen started to pull away after a gorgeous backdoor feed delivered by Fajardo to the cutting Chris Ross that ballooned the lead to nine, 100-91.
Phoenix didn’t back down and continued to fight with 1:36 remaining in the game and got as close as four points, 104-100, courtesy of Tio and Wright’s quick treys but Ross and Fajardo’s four-straight points iced the game and denied them of a miracle comeback.
Fajardo led San Miguel with a monstrous double-double performance of 24 points and 15 rebounds followed by Manuel who chipped in the same amount of points as Fajardo.
Meanwhile, Wright top-scored for the Fuel Masters with 22 and was backstopped by Tio’s 17 points and Perkins’ 15 points.