Chris Banchero dished off a season-high 15 assists in his breakout game of the season, lifting the San Miguel Beermen to a pulsating 111-104 victory over the Westports Malaysia Dragons in Game One of their ASEAN Basketball League semifinal series at the Olivarez Sports Center in Paranaque City.
Import Nick Fazekas had 32 points and eight rebounds while Duke Crews added 25 for the Beermen, who will go for the sweep and the finals seat on Saturday at the MABA Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
But it was Banchero who sparked the Beermen with his crisp passes all game. He had 18 points and six steals, but his assist total did the damage for the Beermen to take first blood of the series.
“I talked to Chris because when he came to the team, he wanted to score. I challenged Chris that it’s not about how you score. Show me you can (get) at least 12 assists and that’s what a true point guard does,” said San Miguel coach Bobby Parks.
Banchero did just that as he already had nine assists in the first half to help the Beermen cut the deficit to 55-49 after the Dragons took an 11-point lead early in the second period.
San Miguel won despite allowing 11 three-point conversions by the Dragons, winners of two out of three regular season games against the Beermen.
“Malaysia was hitting unbelievable shots and I didn’t expect that,” Parks said.
One of Malaysia’s Filipino imports Patrick Cabahug converted 10 of 21 shots for 24 points, including a three-pointer that allowed the Dragons to take an 86-81 lead with 6:05 left in the game.
Cabahug and Nic Belasco also hit two long two-pointers from the right corner that each put the Dragons ahead by two — the last time at 95-93. But Crews tied the game with a slam with 40.8 seconds left. That basket eventually sent the game into extra session as Fazekas didn’t connect on a long three-pointer on San Miguel’s last possession of the fourth.
Banchero opened overtime with a lay-up while Leo Avenido followed by scoring on a difficult reverse lay-up and drawing a three-point play to take a 100-95 lead.
Belasco scored after grabbing an offensive rebound to pull to within two points, 102-100, but that was the Dragons’ last stand. Avenido converted another lay-up to increase the lead to four points. Belasco missed a three-pointer and San Miguel grabbed the miss with Jun Mar Fajardo hitting two charities, 106-100.
Brian Williams had 32 points and scored a deuce to give Malaysia its biggest lead, 31-20, early in the second period. San Miguel tied the game on an 11-0 burst and after a 47-47 deadlock, the Dragons scored eight unanswered points as they went into the second half with the lead, which they could not contain.
Williams finished with 32 points while Tiras Wade added 23 points and Belasco chipped in 11 for the fourth-seed Dragons.