EVEN sans June Mar Fajardo, San Miguel Beer made a big return from a 24-day break in PBA wars and in the process automatically claimed a twice-to-beat incentive in the coming Governors' Cup quarterfinals.
Coming from a forgettable stint in the EASL Champions Week in Japan, the Beermen poured their frustration on the NLEX Road Warriors, pounding out a 120-106 win for a sure Top 3 finish in the elims of the season-ending tourney.
Cameron Clark and his teammates take a shot at either No. 1 or No. 2 as they tangle with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters at the close of the elims Friday at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig.
Pacesetting TNT Tropang Giga and Barangay Ginebra clash in the 5:45 p.m. mainer of the elims closer.
Going to that crucial settos, the Tropang Giga tote a 9-1 win-loss card while the Beermen and the Kings sport identical 8-2 marks.
Against NLEX, coach Jorge Gallent and his troops buckled down to work right away, blasting their foes' bid and thus sending the Road Warriors dropping from No. 4 to No. 6.
NLEX actually ended in a three-way tie at No. 4 with Meralco and Magnolia.
Upon the application of the quotient tiebreak, the Bolts emerged No. 4 (+18), the Hotshots at No. 5 (+14) and the Road Warriors at No. 6 (-32).
Meralco and Magnolia square off in one of the four quarterfinal matchups, with coach Norman Black and his chargers enjoying the twice-to-beat incentive.
The Beermen pursued their bid for top seeding with Clark and CJ Perez leading their charge with 45 and 23 points, respectively.
Clark had a huge double-double with 45 points going with 17 rebounds as he stepped up minus Fajardo who's out with an MCL injury.
With Jericho Cruz (16 points) and Allyn Bulanadi (14) putting in solid contributions, the Beermen dominated the game although the Road Warriors waged a fightback from 21 points down and came to within five entering the homestretch.
But Clark and Perez themselves doused cold water on the NLEX rally, getting SMB back on the winning track after losing its last outing against TNT.
Wayne Selden Jr. and Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser led NLEX' stand, pouring in 32 and 29 points, respectively. (SB)
San Miguel 120 - Clark 45, Perez 23, Cruz 16, Bulanadi 14, Enciso 8, Lassiter 8, Manuel 4, Tautuaa 2, Ross 0, Romeo 0, Brondial 0.
NLEX 106 - Selden Jr. 32, Ganuelas-Rosser 29, Trollano 14, Anthony 8, Semerad 6, Miranda 5, Rosales 5, Alas 5, Nieto 2.
Quarters: 28-19, 61-47, 88-75, 120-106