IVAN Aska finished the game this time and Chris Ross came up with some timely points at the crunch, enabling San Miguel Beer to beat Meralco, 93-83, Sunday in the PBA Commissioner's Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Foremost among those who were pleased with Aska's showing this time around was Beermen coach Jorge Gallent. "The team needed an inside presence, that's why we got him," he said.
Aska wound up with 27 points and 13 rebounds while playing excellent defense on Bolts counterpart Su Braimoh which prevented the latter from sustaining any offensive rhythm.
Still, it took Ross' triple and pair of charities before SMB could finally shake off Meralco, which managed to close in at 81-85, still 2:15 left in the game, and wrap up the wire-to-wire win.
In the end, the Beermen improved to an even 1-1 record after bouncing back from a 103-108 overtime loss to NLEX last Wednesday, when Aska fouled out with still 6:28 left in regulation.
"I just learned my lesson from the first game. It was my first time, so the players and the coaching staff got me ready for (this) game," said Aska. "I told myself I have to stay in the game and just do what I do, play defense and offense."
The loss cut short Meralco's 2-0 start to the season and negated Chris Newsome's 22-point, six-assist performance.
Braimoh wound up with 15 points, 22 off his average, after shooting just 6-of-18 from the field. Raymond Almazan was the next-best scorer for the Bolts with 11, followed by Cliff Hodge's 10 on top of seven rebounds.
Despite going just 9-of-17 from the stripes June Mar Fajardo churned out 17 points and 15 rebounds while Ross finished with 10 points.
The win could be a costly one, however, as Terrence Romeo had to sit out the entire second half after aggravating a right knee injury while substitute Kyt Jimenez also had to leave the game early in the fourth period after inadvertently getting hit on the right eye by Hodge's elbow.
Well before that, it was Jimenez's charities that gave SMB a 51-30 lead in the second period.
For a long while, though, the threat of the Beermen squandering a sizable cushion, like they did after blowing as much as a 19-point spread over NLEX, loomed and became more apparent when Newsome's two straight triples made it a four-point game. (NC)
San Miguel 93 - Aska 27, Fajardo 17, Perez 16, Ross 10, Romeo 9, Tautuaa 7, Enciso 5, Jiimenez 2, Bulanadi 0.
Meralco 83 - Newsome 22, Braimoh 15, Almazan 11, Hodge 10, Bates 6, Quinto 5, Dario 5, Caram 4, Rios 3, Jackson 2, Pasaol 0.
Quarters: 29-20, 55-43, 66-62, 93-83