Converge hands San Miguel first loss in 2023 Governor’s Cup

Jamaal Franklin’s 37-point game helped Converge take down the Beermen. (PBA Images)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

The Converge FiberXers were once again San Miguel Beermen’s kryptonite after becoming the first team to rust their untainted record, 107-103, in the ongoing PBA Governor’s Cup last February 11, 2023, held at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

Facing an undefeated San Miguel squad that dominated their past three opponents, the FiberXers proved that they were ready to play and gave their all despite going down early in the first period.

San Miguel immediately put their imprints on the game led by the aggressive CJ Perez who was scoring at will every time he drove down to Converge’s shaded lane.

Perez’s hot shooting propelled the men in red to an early 15-6 lead but Converge’s import Jamaal Franklin single-handedly put the FiberXers back into the ball game after an insane 18-point first quarter.

Franklin’s energy then sparked the FiberXers midway through the second period which helped them slowly regain their shooting rhythm.

Aside from their offense picking up, the young frontcourt duo of Justin Arana and Barkley Eboña provided the much-needed defensive presence as they joined hands in shutting down PBA’s only six-time Most Valuable Player (MVP) June Mar Fajardo.

May it be single coverages or during a double team switch, the duo wasn’t afraid in banging bodies with the bigger Fajardo who was only limited to seven points before fouling out in the game after Eboña baited him at the 2:57 mark of the final quarter.

“Make June Mar a liability on defense. He’s probably the best player in terms of offense but may mga lapses din naman si June Mar, everybody knows it. Pero ‘yun ang trade off, and we want to exploit that,” said Converge head coach Aldin Ayo.

The second half figured in a nip-and-tuck affair as both teams traded baskets and tallied three lead changes.

However, Fajardo’s loss became a big blow for the reigning All-Filipino Cup champions as the Beermen only scored nine points in the final stretch of the game.

Perez attempted to spearhead San Miguel’s comeback effort after a crucial foul-counted drive that trimmed Converge’s lead to just a point, 102-101.

Needing a bucket to extend its cushion, Franklin once again answered the call for Converge after converting a double-clutch layup with 50 seconds remaining.

Arana then iced the game after swishing both of his shots from the charity stripe that ballooned their lead back to five points, 106-101.

Jericho Cruz quickly scored for the Beermen with eight seconds left but time wasn’t on their side anymore.

Franklin continued to dazzle for Converge after capping off his monster game with 37 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists while Maverick Ahanmisi chipped in 15 points and six boards.

Meanwhile, Cameron Clark had 30 points and 12 rebounds for San Miguel but still wasn’t enough to keep their undefeated record in the import-laced conference.