Prolific San Miguel Beer import Tyler Wilkerson proved too hot to handle offensively for Star Hotshots in the Beermen’s thrilling 103-99 victory in their do-or-die quarterfinals battle on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum, firing away 46 points on a sizzling 15-of-29 shooting from the field.
But the 6-foot-8 Marshall U product was more satisfied with the way he and the Beermen shone defensively, notably in the payoff canto, that helped them overcome an 11-point deficit late in the third quarter and, in the process, clinch their third straight trip in the semifinals—against Rain or Shine anew.
“Defense was a big part in that game,” said the rasta-haired Wilkerson, referring to the way San Miguel Beer harassed Star no end in the final canto, keeping their rivals to just 12 markers, highlighted by a complete dry spell in the final 3:18 of play.
“We’re playing hard ‘D’ pretty much the whole game. That’s what we’ve got to do to win the championship and to win the next series, we’ve got to play defense. We can’t really depend on our offense to win. We’re scoring a lot of points but we’re giving up a lot too. We just need to try focusing on our defense.”
Although they still trailed by as many as nine points at 84-93 early in the fourth period, Wilkerson admitted they started to get their bearings back when they settled down, something that they failed to do majority of the third quarter.
“In the third, we were playing like it’s a full court (kind of pressure). We had a lot of rushed things offensively. I keep telling our guys just ‘to stay focused. We’ve got really a lot of time left in the clock and we still have another quarter left.’ We finally calmed down in the end of the third quarter. We kind of start getting focused and it kind of played much in the fourth,” he pointed out.
While he and the rest of San Miguel Beer locals stepped up defensively, veteran guard Chris Ross stressed it’s a big luxury to have a potent scoring threat like Wilkerson.
“That’s what he does. Scoring the ball is like second nature for him. I am telling coach (Leo Austria) ‘Leave him out there for the whole game.’ When he’s scoring like that, it makes it easier for everyone else,” he said.
“Obviously we want to get June Mar (Fajardo) more involved because he just took four shots. We want to get him involved going forward. But when when the game is on the line, it helps when you really have a good import. He can take you to victory.”
The Beermen suffered a 105-108 setback against the Elasto Painters in their previous meeting during the eliminations round last March 11 but Wilkerson is eager to have the last laugh.
“We will watch the film over those guys and see what we need to do to come out with the win in that series,” he said. – By Jerome Lagunzad
Follow this writer on Twitter: @JLFoxSports