SAN Miguel Beer closed it out right this time to secure a crucial 108-104 victory over Phoenix that boosted its playoffs drive in the PBA Commissioner's Cup Saturday at the PhilSports Arena.
Simon Enciso led six SMB players in double figures in this effort to pump life into their sagging campaign and rebound from previous heartaches versus Ginebra (97-96) and Magnolia (85-80).
The Beermen led by as many as 13 but unlike in their back-to-back losses to Ginebra and Magnolia last time, held tough in the face of the Fuel Masters' fiery uprising to pull through and get back on track.
With their fourth win in nine outings, the coach Leo Austria-less defending champions vaulted back into the Magic 8 from their previous spot of 10th and drew level with idle Meralco and TNT at seventh to ninth places.
"Every game now is a knockout game for us and it will play a big factor in our efforts to move up the standings," said assistant coach Jorge Gallent, who called the shots while Austria was out on health and safety protocols.
"So we have to play 48 minutes of 'San Miguel basketball' each time."
Enciso rifled in 20 points spiked by a six-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc, while adding seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Import Devon Scott (18 points plus 14 boards), CJ Perez (16), Marcio Lassiter (14), Mo Tautuaa (12) and Jericho Cruz (11) made significant contributions as June Mar Fajardo (recovering from a throat surgery) continued to sit it out despite showing up in uniform.
"It's a team effort. Everybody stepped up," said Enciso. "Everybody who came in, gave it his all for how many minutes they played and that's how we won the game."
SMB seized a 77-64 tear in the third and even held a 105-99 cushion going to the last 1:42 but the no-quit Fuel Masters repeatedly rallied and later threatened to within 105-104 on a Tyler Tio trey.
Scott's split made it a two-point SMB lead but Phoenix had its chance and went to RJ Jazul for the possible go-ahead triple.
The veteran marksman missed, however, and Enciso hauled down the defensive board, delivered the ball to Perez, who drew a foul from Sean Anthony.
Perez coolly sank the dagger charities for a more breathable 108-104 upperhand with 1.3 seconds left.
JVee Mocon topscored with 18 as the Fuel Masters, who spiraled to their third straight loss and slipped to sixth spot at 5-6 overall. (OL)
San Miguel 108 - Enciso 20, Scott 18, Perez 16, Lassiter 14, Tautuaa 12, Cruz 11, Zamar 6, Manuel 4, Brondial 4, Herndon 3.
Phoenix 104 - Mocon 18, Serrano 14, Tio 14, Perkins 13, Anthony 13, Wesson 10, Rios 9, Jazul 9, Camacho 2, Pascual 2, Manganti 0, Garcia 0.
Quarters: 32-30, 60-56, 78-72, 108-104.