The San Miguel Beermen and Indonesia Warriors lived up to the hype as they delivered an intense first game in the AirAsia ASEAN Basketball League Finals 2012 series which the Beermen won 86-83 this afternoon.
Duke Crews was the top scorer for the Beermen with 22 points, followed by Avenido’s 21. Fazekas rounded off the Beermen’s top three with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
The Warriors’ Evan Brock was the game’s top scorer with 24 points followed by Stanley Pringle with 21. Steve Thomas recorded a double double of 16 points and 15 rebounds.
The Beermen received a huge lift from their veteran point guard Froilan Baguion. Beermen’s head coach Bobby Parks shifted Chris Banchero to shooting and put Baguion as the point guard in the second half. It was the right decision as Baguion dished out 9 assists and hit a huge three-point shot to tie the game at 77 with 2:50 left in the game.
“Baguion is a veteran and he had won the championship in the last two years. Baguion had been running the offense for the whole year. Now we have the luxury of having two great point guards.” said coach Parks after the game about Baguion.
It was a high shooting first quarter as both teams completed over 50% from the field. The scoring was neck and neck but it was the Warriors who earned the first significant lead of the game after they went on a 5-0 run at the 4 minute mark. The Beermen did not allow this to last for long however, as Avenido sank in an important three point shot just one minute later to bring the Beermen back 16-15. The Warriors went on another run in the final minute however to close out the quarter with a 26-20 lead.
The Warriors continued their red hot shooting and went on a 9 point run immediately after play resumed. The Beermen were cold from the field for two minutes until a Fajardo shot off the glass finally opened their scoring in the second quarter. The Warriors were unstoppable at this point however and a Brock dunk gave them the first double digit lead in the game at 33-22 with six minutes left on the clock. Another amazing Brock dunk at 5:08 gives the Warriors their biggest lead of the game so far at 23-37, putting in 14 big points between them and the Beermen, who at this point had only put in 3 points all quarter.
It certainly looked like the Warriors were about to run away with the game but the Beermen got back into the game to outscore the Warriors 14-9 in the final minutes of the third. Pringle, who scored 14 points in the first quarter was limited to just one point in the entire quarter. Avenido completed their comeback with a stunning three pointer at 1:07 to take away the Warriors’ double digit lead and at halftime the Warriors saw their 14 point lead melted away as the teams entered the locker room with just 5 points separating them at 46-41 to the Warriors.
The Beermen quickly evened things up at 50-50 with 7:17 on the clock. Back to back baskets from Thomas followed by a three from Salangsang saw the Warriors back up 59-62 however with 4:58 left. Both teams kept it very tight in the third as the gap did not go over seven points throughout the entire quarter. The Beermen’s Banchero cut the gap to just one point as he went coast to coast and sank his shot at the buzzer to make it 63-64 to the Warriors.
It was only fitting that this incredible game ended with the most nailbiting fourth quarter in the entire season thus far. The Warriors, understanding how important this game was went straight to work and put in a 6 point run to grab a 7 point lead with 7:13 on the clock. Beermen’s Baguion then made his only shot of the game count as he, overlooked by the Warriors defense and left open, evened things up again with a stunning three point shot with less than three minutes left in the game.
Warriors’ Allan Salangsang committed an unsportmanlike foul when Crews finished off a nice pass from Fazekas with a dunk to make it 82-79 for the Beermen with 1:11 left. The Warriors then had an opportunity to send the game to overtime when Mario Wuysang had an excellent look from the corner but his three-point shot did not go in and the Beermen take a 1-0 lead in this best of three series.
The Beermen did an excellent job on Pringle in the second half. “I’m satisfied with the way we defended Pringle except in the first quarter. He’s a very good player but we did a great job of defending him in the second half,” said coach Parks.
The Indonesia Warriors will now have to win Game 2 which will be held at the Mahaka Square in Jakarta, Indonesia next Saturday the 23rd of June 2012.
Beermen: Duke Crews (22), Leo Avenido (21), Nick Fazekas (18), Chris Banchero (11), Junmar Fajardo (7), Roger Yap (4), Froilan Baguion (3).
Warriors: Evan Brock (24), Stanley Pringle (21), Steven Thomas (16), Joseph Allan Salangsang (10), Jerick Canada (7), Mario Wuysang (5).