Chris McCullough and June Mar Fajardo took charge in the stretch to power San Miguel Beer past Rain or Shine, 89-87, and into the quarterfinals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup last night in Cagayan de Oro City.
McCullough and Fajardo combined for 19 points and anchored key defensive stops in the fourth as the Beermen booked their fifth win in 10 outings and assured themselves of a spot in the Last-8.
Unbeaten in their last three games, the Beermen got past the quarterfinals-qualifier E-Painters (5-6) and took No. 6, getting a chance to gun for a higher seeding with a victory against Meralco on Wednesday.
McCullough finished with 24 markers, relatively lower than his previous 47 and 37, but offset it with five blocks and 17 rebounds plus four assists in the Petron Blaze Saturday Special out-of-town encounter held at the Xavier Gym.
Fajardo dished out 23-15 with three blocks to earn Player of the Game honors.
The duo made the most damage in the payoff period, with McCullough making a split and a booming triple then feeding Fajardo for a two-handed dunk in crucial 6-0 blast that put SMB ahead, 89-82.
Refusing to roll over and die, however, ROS fought back and leaned on the three-pointer of Javee Mocon and two charities from Carl Montgomery to make it a two-point contest.
The E-Painters got a lifeline as McCullough missed and Beau Belga took the long looseball possession and sued for time, giving ROS 0.5 second to launch a final offensive.
Gabe Norwood sent it to Belga for the possible game-winner from beyond the arc but the burly veteran’s shot hit the front rim at the buzzer, allowing SMB to escape with the crucial win.
Mocon (20-8-5) and Montgomery (18-13) led the way for ROS, which along with Magnolia (5-5) got a freepass to the Last-8 last Friday night following the loss of Meralco (3-7) to NorthPort (9-2).
SMB’s quarterfinal entry left the door for only one slot in the next round, with Alaska (4-6), Phoenix (4-7), Meralco, and Columbian Dyip (3-7) in a mad scramble for the last seat.
The Aces seek to arrest a four-game slide and salvage a quarterfinal berth today against Blackwater (6-4) in the curtain raiser at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
San Miguel 89 – McCullough 24, Fajardo 23, Romeo 13, Ross 7, Santos 7, Cabagnot 6, Pessumal 3, Lassiter 3, Nabong 3, Ganuelas-Rosser 0.
Rain or Shine 87 – Mocon 20, Montgomery 18, Nambatac 11, Borboran 9, Daquioag 7, Ponferada 5, Belga 5, Norwood 4, Onwubere 3, Torres 3, Rosales 2.
Quarterscores: 14-18, 47-44, 63-67, 89-87
— Source: Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star)