By JAY R. GOTERA
MANILA — The San Miguel Beermen banked on the endgame heroics of Arwind Santos to quash a furious rally by the Barangay Ginebra Kings for a 72-70 victory Sunday night in the PBA Philippine Cup.
SMB thus notched its sixth straight win and seventh overall to maintain a conference-best 7-1 win-loss mark.
Ginebra absorbed its fourth loss in seven games to fall to solo ninth spot.
Although Alex Cabagnot led the Beermen in scoring with 16 points, it was Santos who stood tallest for his team with his huge plays on both ends of the court at crunch time. He finished with a double-double 10 points and 12 rebounds.
After Santos scored six points in a 14-4 SMB run to keep his team ahead by 10 points, 72-62, with just about two minutes left, the Kings answered with an 8-0 run of their own to cut the Beermen’s lead to just two points, 72-70, with 54 seconds left.
But Santos then grabbed two straight offensive rebounds off Cabagnot’s misses. Still, after two missed free throws by Marcio Lassiter, Ginebra had a chance to tie the score or even to take the lead with a three-pointer with 11 seconds left.
Again, Santos was there to foil a Ginebra comeback as he hounded LA Tenorio, who missed a floater at the last second, allowing SMB to preserve its victory.
June Mar Fajardo was largely silenced by the Ginebra defense, coming up with a modest output of nine points and 11 rebounds. Ronald Tubid added 12 markers.
Japeth Aguilar led Ginebra with 17 points and 11 rebounds, but not enough to boost his team’s chances of snaring a playoff spot.
Rain or Shine 97, Phoenix 82
The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters repulsed a spirited Phoenix rally to cruise to a 97-82 victory over the Fuel Masters.
Their second straight win and fifth overall in seven games enabled the Painters to tighten their grip on solo second spot just behind the pacesetting San Miguel Beer.
The loss snapped Phoenix’s three-game winning streak as the Fuel Masters dropped to a 4-4 record, tying Blackwater at fifth to sixth place in the standings.
Jericho Cruz shone brightest for ROS, scoring a team-high 21 points, including three straight three-pointers in the final quarter that poured cold water on the rallying Fuel Masters.
Jeff Chan added 12 points while James Yap 10 for the Painters who hardly missed the services of two injured starters—center Raymond Almazan, out with a calf muscle injury, and guard Gabe Norwood, who was nursing a viral infection.
Rookie Matthew Wright posted a new career-high 26 points for Phoenix while JC Intal and John Wilson added 10 markers apiece.
Phoenix managed to slash a 21-point ROS lead, 66-45, to just nine points, 81-72, with still 6:04 left.
But Cruz bailed ROS out of trouble, scoring a flurry of three-pointers to put an end to the Phoenix uprising.
Games Wednesday: Meralco Bolts (2-5) vs. Mahindra Flood Buster (1-5) and Star Hotshots (3-3) vs. Alaska Aces (3-3).