ABL: Beermen secure top billing for Playoffs

Brian Williams was the difference for the San Miguel Beermen as they clinched the top seed for the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) Playoffs on Friday.

Brian Williams
Marcus Chhan

By Marcus Chhan

B. Williams poured in 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the Beermen held off a late charge by the Indonesia Warriors to win 70-66 at Ynares Sports Arena, Philippines.

Despite the loss, coach Todd Purves can be proud of the way his team rallied back from 17 points down to make it an interesting contest.

Warriors guard Jerick Canada (nine points) had the chance to send the game into overtime but he missed his three point attempt with six seconds left on the clock which allowed the Beermen to scrape over the finish line from the charity stripe.

Friday's result marked 13 straight wins for the Beermen who now improve to 16-3 while the defending ABL champions Warriors stay second at 13-6 with only three regular season games remaining for both teams.

The Beermen headed into the contest without injured star point-guard Chris Banchero but the Filipinos did not miss him too much as Paulo Hubalde chipped in with nine assists on the night.

Hubalde and the home team were playing a delightful brand of unselfish basketball in the first quarter - punishing the Warriors with a 17-0 run to lead 19-7 by the start of the second quarter.

B. Williams impressed with nine points - including a three - but in the second period Val Acuna took over the scoring.

Acuna caught fire and scored all 15 of his points in that quarter alone with five three pointers while the Warriros were struggling to make anything at that point on just 10/30 shooting.

The ABL champions were also giving the ball away far too cheaply and had eight turnovers in the half on their way to posting a 42-27 half-time deficit.

Warriors coach Purves was visibly frustrated as both teams made their way to the dressing rooms and his mood did not improve by much at the start of the third quarter.

Last season's coach of the year, Purves picked up a technical foul less than 90 seconds into the restart which Leo Avenido accepted with two made free-throws.

Perhaps, Purves picked up the technical on purpose - in a bid to fire up his team. Shortly following Avenido's technical points, the Warriors finally woke up from their slumber and began taking the game to the home team.

First, Chris Daniels - guilty of turning the ball over three times in the first half alone - stole the ball and went coast to coast to score.

Then, Stanley Pringle decided to get in on the Warriors' act. He drove to the hoop aggressively and made the basket with the foul. He converted the three-point play and it was 50-38 to the Beermen with over a quarter and a half of basketball left to play.

Suddenly, it was the Beermen who were turning the ball over while the Warriors were getting good looks at the basket from a more patient attacking tempo.

Steve Thomas (18 points, 15 rebounds) ended a dominant third period for the Warriors with five quick points before a buzzer beating effort by Justin Williams at least gave the Beermen a 56-48 lead heading into the final quarter.

However, the momentum was clearly with the visiting team at this point.

J. Williams did everything right to block a weak effort from Pringle at the start of the fourth. But then the defense fell asleep at the resulting inbounds pass allowing Daniels to catch and shoot to make it a six point game.

Beermen coach Leo Austria was fuming on the side lines and his team responded with a nice run to go back up by 13 points, highlighted by a huge two-handed put-back by J. Williams after Asi Taulava couldn't convert in the low post.

Back came the Warriors,though, but this time through Canada's new-found shooting touch. He drained a triple to save a broken Warriors play with 3:50 left on the clock to bring his side to within five points.

Canada connected again from downtown a minute later and now the Beermen were really clinging onto the victory by their fingertips.

B. Williams then produced a timely hook shot off the backboard to open up a vital four-point lead with under two minutes to go.

But with 54 seconds left, Pringle found Canada in the corner for another three to make it 67-66 and after an ill-advised shot from beyond the arc by Ryan Joseph Rizada, the Warriors had the chance to take the lead on the next possession.

Thomas couldn't deliver this time and the Warriors were forced to send Taulava to the line for two pressure free-throws.

Taulava wasn't having his best game by his high standards with 12 points and nine rebounds, but the veteran player stepped up when it counted by draining both attempts from the charity stripe with 7.6 seconds left to make it 69-66 to San Miguel.

A heavily guarded Canada then missed a three point shot for the Warriors to tie the game, Thomas couldn't handle the rebound, and Hubalde sealed the deal for the Beermen with a single free-throw at the end to ensure a slightly lucky 13th straight ABL win on Friday.

The Beermen will host Sports Rev Thailand Slammers on Wednesday May 8th at Ynares Sports Arena, Philippines, for the 4PM HKT tip-off. The Warriors will also play on the same day where they will host Saigon Heat at Mahaka Square, Indonesia, for the 8PM HKT tip-off. 

Quarter scoring: Q1(19-7) Q2(23-20) Q3(14-21) Q4(14-18)

Full-Time: Beermen 70-66 Warriors

Beermen: B. Williams - 15, Acuna - 15, Taulava - 12, Hubalde - 8, J. Williams - 8, Avenido - 6, Cawaling - 2, Rizada - 2, Thiele - 2.

Warriors: Thomas - 18, Pringle - 15, Wuysang - 13, Canada - 9, Daniels - 9, Prihantono - 2.

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