June 05, 2017

Beermen raring to finish off the Fuel Masters

SAN Miguel Beer has a very recent fond memory of Phoenix.

Reliving that experience would surely be on the collective minds of the Beermen as they try to make short work of the Fuel Masters Tuesday in their PBA Commissioner's Cup quarterfinals matchup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

By virtue of finishing No. 2 after the 11-game eliminations SMB totes a win-once advantage over Phoenix, which wound up No. 7.

The protagonists got to their respective positions because of each other.

In their lone elimination round meeting last April 7, SMB beat Phoenix 110-88 to touch off a 4-0 start to the mid-season tourney and eventually a 9-2 slate, losing only by quotient to top-ranked Barangay Ginebra.

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That defeat would contribute to the Fuelmasters' downward spiral, which would see them lose four of their last six games and net them a 4-7 record.

Things could be vastly different now, as Beermen coach Leo Austria himself admitted.

"Matagal nang tapos ang (elimination) game na iyon and I'm sure they've learned their lessons from that," said Austria. "Besides, playoffs na ito and what we should do is keep our focus, execute and play well on both ends of the court."

Indeed, Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia has taken one vital fact from that game -- SMB's June Mar Fajardo using his height and heft to finish with 22 points and Charles Rhodes notching 19 and 10 -- into consideration.

"We've got to keep Fajardo and Rhodes off the paint and make them defend on the other end," said Vanguardia, determined to at least extend the series.
"We need to pull off some surprises."
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The burden of making SMB work on the defensive end should fall on Phoenix import Jameel McKay (23.1 ppg, 17.4 rpg) and Matthew Wright, who is coming off a career-high 42-point game in a 114-116 loss to NLEX last May 27.

The likes of RJ Jazul, Cyrus Baguio, JC Intal and Doug Kramer must chip in their share if the Fuel Masters hope to keep up with the Beermen, who also boast of Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross and Arwind Santos.