SMB seals twice-to-beat edge in PBA Commish Cup q'finals

By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno

January 13, 2024, 12:06 am

MANILA – San Miguel Beer secured a twice-to-beat advantage in the PBA Commissioner's Cup quarterfinals after stopping Blackwater, 125-117, at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City on Friday night.

The Beermen escaped one final push from the Bossing to finish the elimination round at 8-3 and assured themselves of the Top 4 finish, which comes with the quarterfinal bonus.

Up by 17 early in the third at 75-58 and 98-84 near the start of the final period, SMB allowed a 12-0 Blackwater run that cut the lead to just two, 98-96, a little over 10 minutes to play.

The Beermen responded with a 7-0 run to pad the lead to nine, 105-96, but the Bossing drew near again with a 10-2 run that trimmed the gap to just 107-106, with 6:27 left.

Blackwater missed a chance to tie after Bradwyn Guinto settled for a split from the free throw line.

SMB then went on a 12-2 run that upped the lead to 119-108, only 1:14 remaining.

The Bossing had one last gasp with a 7-0 run to draw to within four, 119-115, with 26 seconds to go, but six straight free throws by Jericho Cruz iced the win for the Beermen.

Bennie Boatwright exploded anew for SMB with 44 points on 16-of-28 shooting, including 8-of-17 from three-point range, along with 12 rebounds and five assists.

CJ Perez added 15 points, four rebounds, two assists, and one steal.

June Mar Fajardo returned from a hand injury and contributed 11 points, nine rebounds, six assists, one block, and one steal.

San Miguel could finish as high as second if Phoenix (8-2) falls to TNT (4-6) in their last game on Sunday night at PhilSports Arena in Pasig.

Chris Ortiz fired 43 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, two blocks, and one steal for Blackwater, which lost its 10th straight and ended the conference at 1-10.

Meanwhile, Meralco strengthened its chances of clinching the last twice-to-beat advantage after taking down Terrafirma, 109-102, for an 8-3 card.

Terrafirma will hope for a win by sister team NLEX (4-6) against Barangay Ginebra (7-3) in Albay province on Saturday night to seal a Top 4 berth.

Shonn Miller led six Meralco players in double figures with 29 points on top of 21 rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Bong Quinto added 20 points, 17 of them in the first half, five rebounds, and nine assists off the bench.

Stephen Holt had a career-high 26 points on 8-of-13 shooting and 5-of-9 but Terrafirma still lost its eighth straight game and finished the conference at 2-9.

Juami Tiongson added 21 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals. (PNA)