Marcio Lassiter and his game-winning triple at the buzzer allowed the Beermen to escape a tough challenge from NLEX as they took a thrilling 94-93 squeaker to remain unscathed and grab a piece of the early lead in the 2016 Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Down by five points heading into the final minute, San Miguel Beer flexed its championship muscles as it banked on two of its top clutch performers.
Back-to-back triples from Alex Cabagnot and Lassiter erased NLEX’s lead and shifted the momentum to San Miguel Beer, which blew a 17-point lead early in the third and even trailed in the fourth before its last-minute explosion.
“Nasa bingit na kami ng pagkatalo, pero nanalo pa rin kami dahil sa three-pointer ni Marcio (Lassiter),” described San Miguel coach Leo Austria. “Our play was for AZ (Reid), but he saw Marcio open and ‘yung kamay ng shooter nandoon talaga in that last shot.”
San Miguel Beer, Meralco and surprising Mahindra are now all tied at the top with unbeaten 2-0 starts.
On the other hand, NLEX tasted its first defeat and slipped to 1-1 in the middle of the ladder.
Reid led the Beermen in scoring with his team-high 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Cabagnot had 19 points, four rebounds and three assists. June Mar Fajardo added 16 markers and six boards.
But it was Lassiter, who stole the show as his left-elbow triple proved to be the biggest play of the game. He finished with eight points and nine rebounds.
Sean Anthony’s five straight points, from a three-pointer and a jump shot, turned the tied game into a 91-86 cushion for NLEX with 2:29 remaining.
San Miguel countered as Fajardo connected on a jumper on the other end, but Asi Taulava answered one of his own as well to allow NLEX to hold on to its five-point lead, 93-88, heading the final minute.
Cabagnot kept the Beermen breathing after a triple with 27 seconds left that trimmed the Road Warriors’ lead to just two, 93-91, paving the way for Lassiter’s last-second heroics.
As the game intensified late in the third, a commotion occurred as Taulava and David Semerad had a shoving match after the latter became physical with NLEX import Bill Walker on a play.
Technical fouls were issued on both as well as Road Warriors’ manager Ronald Dulatre.
The Beermen continued to win sans key guys Arwind Santos, Gabby Espinas, Chris Lutz and Yancy De Ocampo, who are all still recuperating from various injuries.
Walker led all scorers with his game-high 33 points for NLEX.
Meanwhile, action continues today as another double-header is slated at the Big Dome.
Red-hot Meralco (2-0) has a chance to regain solo leadership when it shoots for a third straight win as it battles sister team Tropang TNT (1-0) at 3 p.m. in a clash of unbeaten teams, while two teams who are yet to taste a win go at it as Rain or Shine and Phoenix duel at 5:15 p.m.
SAN MIGUEL 94 – Reid 23, Cabagnot 19, Fajardo 16, David 13, Lassiter 8, De Ocampo 6, Arana 4, Ross 3, Reyes 2, Heruela 0, Semerad 0, Tubid 0.
NLEX 93 – Walker 33, Villanueva J. 14, Anthony 9, Villanueva E. 8, Akl 7, Khobuntin 6, Taulava 6, Alas 4, Lanete 3, Monfort 3, Baracael 0.
Quarters: 23-22, 51-41, 68-68, 94-93
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
3 p.m. – Meralco vs. Tropang TNT
5:15 p.m. – Rain or Shine