Mo Tautuaa led all scorers to give the defending champion San Miguel Beermen (SMB) an 89-82 victory over the Meralco Bolts in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Sports Arena on Wednesday.
Showing the heart of a champion, SMB was unabashed by a bad start and a 13-point third-quarter deficit. Aside from Tautuaa, the likes of veterans Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, and Chris Ross left their indelible print in the pivotal fourth quarter that led to SMB’s third straight win and fourth in six games overall.
Arwind Santos’ triple in the final quarter sparked a 21-4 run and turned a 60-69 deficit into an 81-73 lead with 5:10 left on the clock. With 19.9 seconds to go, Chris Ross unleashed a 3-pointer to wrap up the game, stopped Bolts’ own two-game winning streak, and dropped it to an even 3-3 slate.
“Coach (Leo Austria) told us to keep fighting, keep going, keep fighting, that no matter what, keep pushing until the end,” related Tautuaa, who tallied 23 points and five rebounds.
“They had us in the beginning. We just kept going. That’s what happened. Trust in the coach’s plan. We got a lot of vets in the team; they encourage us to do better. We’re keeping the negativity out and staying positive,” Tautuaa added.
Cabagnot, meanwhile, scored nine of his 13 points in the fourth period while Ross added 12 points, four assists, and five steals, two of those in the fourth.
San Miguel Bueermen’s head coach commended the gallant effort of his players by saying: “This game is really important for us. We didn’t have a good start. We’re so lucky in the fourth quarter we were able to catch up because they know it’s winning time, and they know how to win. We banked on the experience of the players.”
“In the last few minutes, when we were leading by five or six, we knew that we had to take care of that lead, and they knew how to do it… I think for so long, we know the attitude, the character of the players, especially Chris Ross. Even though he’s hurt, he will play 100%. And he knows how to play. And I think that rubbed off on some of the players,” Austria added.
“We were down by double figures, so we’re not losing our hope, and I got some players from the bench that provided a spark, especially Von Pessumal and Bambam Gamalinda. [They] provided a lot of energy, and they were able to give some rest to Marcio [Lassiter] and Alex,” Austria further said.
San Miguel vs Meralco
Quarterscores: 19-20; 40-40 ; 60 – 69 ; 89-82
Beermen (89) – Tautuaa 23, Santos 17, Lassiter 12, Ross 12, Cabagnot 13, Gamalinda 4, Pessumal 4, Zamar 2, Escoto 2, Mamaril 0.
Bolts (82) – Amer 17, Hugnatan 15, Newsome 14, Hodge 7, Black 7, Quinto 6, Almazan 5, Maliksi 5, Jamito 4, Pinto 2, Faundo 0, Jackson 0.