San Miguel survives late Star run to remain unbeaten

By Dugout Philippines

QUEZON CITY--San Miguel Beer weathered a late rally by an all-Filipino Star crew, hacking out a 103-97 win in their Easter Sunday showdown to preserve its perfect start in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Chris Ross scored on a drive off Rafi Reavis then Arwind Santos nailed two charities off a foul by Paul Lee to fend off Star’s last-ditch stand and clinch the Beermen’s third win in a row in the mid-season tourney.

With their lethal double-post threat complemented by a good perimeter shooting, the Beermen stormed to a 19-point spread in the third period and held on to keep a stirring run from their Philippine Cup title conquest.

Charles Rhodes played a key role as he stood his ground against Tony Mitchell in a topnotch import matchup.

He collected 29 points and 10 rebounds, and drew Mitchell’s sixth and last foul with 2:49 left to play.

Curiously, the Hotshots waged a tough resistance even on Mitchell’s exit, threatening at 95-99 on a seven-point binge by Jio Jalalon, Ian Sangalang and Paul Lee with 1:01 left to play.

But the Beermen stayed unfazed, going to Ross and Santos for the key buckets that sealed a third win following earlier triumphs over the Meralco Bolts and the Phoenix Fuel Masters.

Minus Mitchell at the finish, the Hotshots fell short in their bid and dropped to 4-2 with a second straight loss following a setback against the Barangay Ginebra Kings the last time out.

“Alam namin from the start that this would be a tough game lalo na dahil galing sa talo ang Star,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria.

“Charles Rhodes was of big help. Namayani yung pride niya knowing he’s up against a prolific import in Tony Mitchell. Dahil sa ego nya, marami siyang ipinakita. Hopefully, he’ll be able to sustain that in our next games,” Austria also said.

“He’s not asking for the ball. He’s just complementing his teammates in our system. I’m confident he can come up with a lot of other things lalo na pag nakuha niya ng husto ang laro namin,” Austria added.

Rhodes highlighted his game with a thunderous two-handed jam to finish a fastbreak play that sent the crowd on their feet.

Santos scored on dish-off by Ross in their next offensive thrust and the Beermen posted their 19-point spread at 77-58 late in the third.

Ross (19 points) and Santos (13) were among the SMB locals who finish in double figures along with Marcio Lassiter (four three-pointers and a total of 16 markers) and June Mar Fajarco (10 points and 11 rebounds).

Mitchell paced the Hotshots with 22 markers and 11 boards.

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