October 23, 2017, 5:39 pm
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Beermen leave Mahindra reeling

SAN Miguel Beer just continues to mow down the competition.

With Alex Cabagnot scoring a personal season-high 26 points and three others finishing in double figures, the Beermen made short work of Mahindra 109-80 last night to stretch their unbeaten streak to four in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Astrodome.

Despite sitting out the final quarter like Cabagnot, Charles Rhodes still added 20 points and 18 rebounds while Marcio Lassiter and Gabby Espinas also made significant contributions during the game where SMB led by as many as 34 points.

It marked the first time the Beermen beat the Floodbuster in an import-laced conference and coach Leo Austria said his charges were on their toes from the start.

“Tumatak sa utak nila na they cannot take this team for granted, especially in this tournament na every win kailangan,” said Austria.

Mahindra absorbed its fourth straight defeat and dropped to 1-6 overall.

Not even the presence of head coach and Sen. Manny Pacquiao, who showed up for the first time in the conference, could give the Floodbuster the much-needed boost as they absorbed their worst defeat since a 34-point beating from Star last Feb. 1.

Keith Wright notched 16 points and 12 rebounds, but with only Gary David and Jackson Corpuz providing support and one key player in Alex Mallari sidelined by injury there was little the Floodbuster could do to prevent the Beermen’s rampage.

So lopsided was the match that even before SMB posted a 95-61 lead early in the fourth, Austria recalled his starters so they can rest.

Even Austria admitted he was starting to look forward to their match against defending champion Rain or Shine on Saturday while the Mahindra match was going on.

June Mar Fajardo rested the most as he did not see action in the last 34 minutes of the game. The reigning three-time MVP saw action for only nine minutes and missed all his four shots, marking the first time he went scoreless since the 2013 edition of the same tournament.

“In the past few conferences talagang bugbog siya and ngayon nagkaroon siya ng opportunity na makapagpahinga. And he’s practicing with us and with Gilas at kanina he was not feeling well kaya ipinahinga na lang namin siya,” explained Austria. “Marami namang nag-step up.”

Lassiter and Espinas were among those, with the former scattering 12 of his 18 points and the forward chipping six of his 12 in the third quarter, enabling SMB to maitain an 86-59 bulge going to the final canto.

Already without a seasoned big man to match up against either Fajardo or Rhodes, Mahindra got saddled with another handicap when Alex Mallari failed to suit up due to back spasms he suffered during Holy Week practices.

The absence of the do-it-all guard acknowledged as one of the team leaders, who averages 13.67 points, 5.5 rebounds and almost four assists, left the Floodbuster seemingly lost.

The Beermen made 45 of their 95 shots from the floor, including 15-for-38 from beyond the arc. The Floodbuster were worse off, going 35-for-106 and sinking only three out of their 30 three-point tries.

The tone for the rout was set right in the first half, which SMB took 55-31 despite Fajardo playing only nine minutes after missing all his first four shots.

After scoring just six points against Star, Cabagnot already had 19 points with Rhodes adding 18 on top of 11 rebounds with his first half play highlighted by a two-handed jam and an and-one that made it 42-24.
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