MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The San Miguel Beermen bucked a slow start and rallied from 20 points down in the payoff period to steal Game 1 from the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 109-105, in the best-of-7 semifinals of the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup on Tuesday, January 5 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
June Mar Fajardo, who leads the Best Player of the Conference race, had a massive outing with 36 points, 18 rebounds and 5 blocks to lead the Beermen.
Arwind Santos added 19 points, 17 rebounds, 5 assists, one steal and an assist while Ronald Tubid had 15 points with 11 coming in the fourth.
"I don't know what to say. This is unbelievable, we were down by 20 points and I thought we're losing this game," said head coach Leo Austria. "But I have to give credit to my players espeially Chris Ross and Ronald Tubid and June Mar."
The Beermen, who had a 20-day lay-off owing to an outright semifinals berth after the eliminations, were down 91-71 entering the fourth quarter.
But after making just 4 of their 19 attempts from long range in the first 3 periods, San Miguel turned it on in the final frame and hit 6 treys including back-to-back triples from Tubid to make it a one-possession ballgame with 4:54 left.
"I think we were lucky because Ronald's 3-pointers, which are clutch, went in," Austria said, whose team was down by as much as 22 points late in the first half.
Fajardo gave his team the lead on 4 straight points, 105-103, with 2:20 remaining but even after comebacking Paul Lee (knee) drained a turnaround jumper, Chris Ross countered with the game-sealing triple, 108-105, with 1:32 to go.
"I don't know how I can explain this but the important thing after the first half, I told them, is we know all that they are doing," Austria said. "What we need to have is only effort and in the second half they brought out the effort."
Beau Belga and JR Quiñahan showed the way for the Painters with 19 points each. Quiñahan also had 11 points and 4 steals.
Jericho Cruz and Chris Tiu chipped in 16 and 12 points, respectively.
Guard Lee played for the first time this conference, entering the game halfway through the second period, and looked like he never missed a beat.
Lee, who injured his left knee in the offseason, made two of his 4 3-pointers for 8 points to go with two rebounds, an assist and a steal.
The Painters' loss was reminiscent of another defeat 6 months ago, when they likewise blew a double-digit lead against the Beermen in Game 1 of the semifinals in the 2015 Governors' Cup.
A scuffle occured early in the third quarter when Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao and guard Chris Ross bumped into each other on the sidelines. Guiao slapped Ross' hand away and Belga promptly went to the defense of his coach and pushed Ross.
The incident, which caused technical fouls on Ross, Belga, and Guiao, left a lasting impression after the expressive coach did the "pabebe wave" on national television as he awaited the officials' verdict.
Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler
Game 2 of this series is on Thursday, January 7 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. (SCHEDULE: 2016 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals)
San Miguel (109): Fajardo 36, Santos 19, Tubid 15, Cabagnot 9, Lutz 9, Espinas 7, Ross 7, Lassiter 5, Araña 2, De Ocampo 0, Heruela 0.
Rain or Shine (105): Belga 19, Quinahan 19, Cruz 16, Tiu 12, Almazan 8, Lee 8, Ponferada 8, Norwood 7, Ahanmisi 4, Teng 4, Chan 0, Ibanes 0.
Quarter scores: 21-31, 50-68, 71-91, 109-105.
#PBA: Coach Leo Austria talks about San Miguel's come-from-behind win over Rain or Shine Posted by Jane Yvette Bracher on Tuesday, 5 January 2016