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San Miguel Beermen secure a twice-to-beat advantage by defeating Blackwater

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TWICE-TO-BEAT. The San Miguel Beermen secure a coveted twice-to-beat advantage in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals with a hard-fought 125-117 victory over a resilient Blackwater squad at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Friday, January 12, 2024. PBA PHOTO

In a triumphant return for June Mar Fajardo, the San Miguel Beermen secured their coveted twice-to-beat advantage in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals with a hard-fought 125-117 victory over a resilient Blackwater squad at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Friday, January 12, 2024.

Bennie Boatwright emerged as the leading force for the Beermen, delivering an impressive performance with 44 points and 12 rebounds.

Fajardo, making a highly anticipated comeback, seamlessly reintegrated into the team, contributing 11 points, nine rebounds, six assists, a steal, and a block. The seven-time MVP displayed little evidence of the hand injury that sidelined him for six games, reinforcing his pivotal role in the Beermen’s title aspirations.

Boatwright, recognizing Fajardo’s impact, praised the big man’s ability to make the game easier for his teammates. “He makes my job easy because he’s such a great passer,” Boatwright explained. “Whenever he gets the ball inside, they have to double him or go into a zone. So I just have to face out, and he’ll find me. He finds everybody, and if they don’t, he can go one-on-one, and that’s tough to stop. He’s a force to be reckoned with.”

The victory marked San Miguel Beer’s fifth consecutive win, culminating in an 8-3 record to secure a spot in the top four alongside Magnolia and Phoenix Super LPG. Coach Jorge Gallent emphasized that this accomplishment is just the first step towards their ultimate goal, acknowledging the need to focus on the upcoming quarterfinals.

Gallant said that after getting into the top four for the twice-to-beat advantage, they will now shift their focus on their quarterfinal stint. 

Despite the Bossing’s gallant stand, led by Chris Ortiz’s double-double performance of 43 points and 15 rebounds, Blackwater succumbed to their 10th consecutive loss. After trailing by as many as 17 points in the third quarter, the resilient squad mounted a comeback behind Ortiz’s 17 fourth-quarter points, narrowing the gap to 106-107 with 6:27 remaining.

However, the Beermen regrouped swiftly, with key contributions from Fajardo, Chris Ross, Don Trollano, and Jericho Cruz. A drive by Fajardo, a timely Ross triple, five consecutive points by Trollano, and a crucial Boatwright putback restored an 11-point lead. Cruz sealed the deal with a flawless 6-of-6 performance from the free-throw line, ensuring the Beermen’s advance to the quarterfinals with the much-coveted twice-to-beat advantage.

The boxscores:

San Miguel 125 – Boatwright 44, Perez 15, Romeo 14, Cruz 12, Fajardo 11, Trollano 10, Tautuaa 8, Ross 6, Teng 5, Lassiter 0.

Blackwater 117 – Ortiz 43, Hill 14, Suerte 13, Amer 12, Kwukuteye 9, Sena 8, DiGregorio 7, Guinto 4, Ilagan 3, Concepcion 2, Jopia 2, Escoto 0.

Quarterscores: 27-25, 63-51, 98-86, 125-117

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