|Junemar Fajardo led the Beermen to a Game 1 win. PBA Media Bureau|
By Patrick Sutare
PASAY -- The quest for a title repeat continues to smooth sail for San Miguel as they showed flashes of brilliance to reign supreme over Alaska, 92-79, in Game 1 of their best-of-five semifinal series of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The defending champs overwhelmed the Aces with their sheer firepower as they kept a steady pace to pounce on the latter’s even shorthanded line up.
The Beermen’s deep frontcourt rotation spelled nightmares for the second seed Aces who remain to play sans Calvin Abueva while likewise missing the services of Chris Banchero who flew back to the States due to an undisclosed personal reasons.
The bigs accounted for 62 of SMB’s total scoring output, spreading it out from the starters to the back-ups to keep the team’s head above water all game.
Junemar Fajardo top-scored his squad with 17 points and grabbed nine boards in 27 minutes.
Renaldo Balkman, who turns 34 on Saturday, added 13 markers, 11 caroms, four assists and two blocks.
Arwind Santos chipped in 12 points off the bench while Kelly Nabong continues to be a good fit to coach Leo Austria’s system, providing efficiency evinced by 11 points in less than 15 minutes of play. Christian Stanhardinger, meanwhile, returned from his injury layoff and contributed nine points in 11 minutes.
Setting the tone for the surging Beermen was Alex Cabagnot, who quickly scored in double digits in the first quarter before finishing with 15 points, three rebounds and five dimes, as his team makes it three wins in a row in the Playoffs after finishing the eliminations at a bizarre sixth spot.
Diamon Simpson tried to carry the Aces on his broad shoulders but to no avail as his 31-point explosion went for naught. The returning import hardly got a lift from his local crew as Vic Manuel was the only other player in the team to reach double figures with 16. The Best Player of the Conference frontrunner, however, shot a dismal 35 percent from the field.
Game Two shifts to the Big Dome on Monday.
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