Reigning Philippine Cup back-to-back champ San Miguel Beer started strong and finished stronger, carving out a 96-88 win over Star in the kickoff of PBA Season 42 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Sunday.
The Beermen scored all the first eight points of the contest and unleashed a decisive 15-to-nothing run towards the end to hold off the Hotshots, squeezing through to start their chase for an all-Filipino treble.
June Mar Fajardo, Alex Cabagnot and Arwind Santos all churned out huge numbers, coming through to spoil the first game of coach Chito Victolero, Paul Lee, Aldrech Ramos and Jio Jalalon with the Hotshots.
Fajardo, the reigning three-time PBA MVP, started the season with a double-double game with 25 points and 16 rebounds, Cabagnot came up with 22 markers and eight assists while Santos contributed 17 points.
“I was wary coming into the game kasi hindi kami sanay lumaro on opening day. If I’m not mistaken, this is our first in 14 years,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria.
“Worried din ako kasi lagi kaming talo sa first game namin. Last time, talo kami against Mahindra with their then coach Chito Victolero,” Austria added.
But San Miguel seized the early initiative and overcame Star’s challenge in the second half.
The Beermen pounced on the Hotshots’ shaky start, striking hard on Star’s numerous turnovers in taking the opening half at 51-43.
So erratic were the Hotshots in the first two quarters, committing 17 turnovers, and San Miguel made the most out of it, hammering Star, 17-5, off those errors.
Lee struggled badly in the first half, throwing possession five times and going 1-of-5 from the field.
The Beermen were a lot steadier, with Cabagnot and Fajardo leading the way with 13 and 12 points, respectively, in the first 24 minutes of play.
But as Lee hit his strides in the third, the Hotshots came alive and raced ahead, 79-75, going into the final canto.
Lee piled up 10 markers and the Hotshots collected eight three-pointers in hammering the Beermen, 36-24, in the third.
But the Beermen struck back in the end.
SAN MIGUEL 96 – Fajardo 25, Cabagnot 22, Santos 17, Lassiter 11, Ross 7, Tubid 6, Espinas 5, Reyes 3, Garcia 1, Agovida 0.
STAR 88 – Barroca 13, Lee 12, Jalalon 11, Maliksi 10, Simon 9, Sangalang 8, Pingris 7, Ramos 6, Melton 6, Reavis 2, Pascual 2, Brondial 2.
Quarters: 26-24, 51-43, 75-79, 96-88