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Realtors drop to 7-7 alongside Giants

EVEN after long being assured of an automatic semifinals slot, there is still no letting up for San Miguel Beer.

Not with Christopher Williams coming in and lifting the Beermen to a 92-90 cliffhanger of a win over the Sta. Lucia Realtors Sunday in the Motolite PBA Fiesta Conference at the Cuneta Astrodome.

The man who planed in only Saturday evening came up with two big shots down the stretch to give SMB the win that c oach Siot Tanquingcen said serves more than just garnish for their campaign in the season-ending tournament.

Tanquingcen bared the initial plan was for Williams to temporarily replace the fever-stricken Gabe Freeman. “Pahinga muna siya (Freeman),” he said. “Hopefully, by the semis okay na siya.”

The fact Williams wound up with a teamhigh 19 points and eight rebounds despite just one shootaround and a hasty walkthrough to the SMB system also impressed Tanquingcen, making him see if Williams can do more in the tougher battles ahead.

“We're just making sure we study all our options,”said Tanquingcen after the win that improved their league-leading win-loss record to 11-2.

The loss that dropped it to 7-7 relegated SLR to the knockout pairings in the ensuing wildcard phase, along with Purefoods that also wound up the classification round with the same card.

It was not only Freeman who was out for SMB. Jay Washington was suffering from back spasms and Dorian Pena is set to undergo X-rays for a suspected back injury.

Sta. Lucia still was not able to take advantage, although Anthony Johnson tried hard with 29 points and 14 rebounds and Joseph Yeo had 22 points.

All because of Williams, whose hook tied the game for the last time at 90 and his drive gave the Beermen a two-point lead in the last 5.5 seconds.

Following a timeout, the Realtors tried to at least tie the game, but a play designed primarily for a Johnson drive went awry against Wesley Gonzales' leech-like defense, and he was forced to take a harried jumper that hit only the back rim before the final buzzer.

Johnson already had 15 points at the half but did little scoring in the third quarter, leaving that chore chiefly on the shoulders of Yeo, who scattered 11 points, including six straight that gave SLR a 68-67 edge going into the final canto.

That reversal of fortune seemed a very distant possibility from the way SMB surged to as much as a 56-43 lead behind a 12-0 run. That surge was started and capped by triples from Bonbon Custodio and Mick Pennisi.

Williams had eight points and five rebounds in the first half alone, but it was Mike Cortez coming back from a knee injury and seeing action in only his first game of the season that stirred SMB the most, helping the team to a big second quarter charge from a 16-21 deficit.

Cortez capped a seven-point period with a triple that made it 41-32 count, but his foul on Johnson following Bitoy Omolon's trey and a Beermen turnover led to three free throws that put the Realtors within a very manageable 38-41 at the half. (NCo)

The scores:

San Miguel 19 – Williams 19, Villanueva 13, Cortez 11, Custodio 9, Pingris 9, Gonzales 7, Hontiveros 7, Pennisi 6, Ildefonso 5, Eman 4, Racela 2.

Sta. Lucia 90 – Johnson 29, Yeo 22, Omolon 13, Reyes 7, Miranda 5, Mendoza 5, Gonzales 3, Daa 2, Espino 2, Aquino 2, Jaime 0.

Quarters: 16-21, 41-38, 67-68, 92-90.

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