SMB tramples NLEX in triple OT thriller


By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--Al Thornton and Tyler Wilkerson engaged in an epic battle that needed over an hour before finally settling the score.

Thornton and Wilkerson put up an impressive scoring barrage, but it was the latter's club that prevailed as San Miguel downed NLEX, 131-127, in a wild Tuesday night PBA Commissioner's Cup match-up at the Smart Araneta Coliseum that went to three overtime periods.

Thornton fired 69 points, while Wilkerson made 58, but Wilkerson's Beermen walked away with the victory plus an outright quarterfinal berth after the 63-minute clash.

SMB actually started the game red hot, immediately opening a 16-point lead in the first half as Wilkerson led the early barrage.

But NLEX, behind Thornton and Sean Anthony, slowly crawled back, and despite SMB trying to pull away in some junctures, NLEX broke through and forced the first extension on a tough triple by Thornton at the regulation buzzer.

Wilkerson and Thornton began the score-off in the first extra time as the former opened the scoring with a deuce countered by the latter's trey that gave the Road Warriors the lead.

But Alex Cabagnot joined the scoring showcase and made crucial baskets that helped the Beermen get the edge anew, 108-106, with 34.4 seconds left in the period.

Anthony, however, forced the second free basketball session with a layup with 20.8 seconds to go even as Wilkerson missed a game-winning shot at the final buzzer.

Both imports again exchanged baskets to open the second overtime, but a seven-point outburst from Cabagnot off two triples plus a free throw gave SMB a 118-112 lead with 1:37 left.

Thornton then came to work, scoring six straight to again tie the match, 118-all, with 23 seconds remaining.

Marcio Lassiter missed on a drive to the rim and gave NLEX a chance to steal with 0.3 second to go.

Thornton then slammed the ball off an alley-oop in the next play, but the referees ruled the dunk to have made after the buzzer, effectively voiding the shot and sending the match to another five-minute set.

Junemar Fajardo then started his own mini-scoring rally at the start of the third overtime, scoring five points to help the Beermen open a 129-123 lead with 57.6 seconds remaining.

But the Road Warriors were not done yet as Thornton and Anthony scored back-to-back baskets to cut the lead to two with 23.6 seconds left.

This time, however, Lassiter made sure the result will be in as he made the insurance free throws with 17.3 left before his teammates forced their opponents to missed close baskets in the end.

Wilkerson beautified his 58-point outburst with 13 rebounds, seven assists, five steals, and two blocks.

Thornton also got 19 rebounds, two assists, one block, and one steal, but he committed six turnovers.

Cabagnot, on the other hand, was the top-performing local with 20 points, five rebounds, 12 assists, and one steal.

Box Scores:

San Miguel 131-Wilkerson 58, Cabagnot 20, Fajardo 18, Santos 15, Lassiter 11, Ross 7, Semerad 2, De Ocampo 0, Espinas 0, Arana 0

NLEX 127-Thornton 69, Anthony 24, Taulava 13, E. Villanueva 6, J. Villanueva 6, Alas 3, Borboran 3, Cardona 3, Apinan 0, Enciso 0, Lanete 0, R. Reyes 0

Quarterscores: 30-16, 52-45, 80-73, 99-99, 108-108, 118-118, 131-127

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