By JONAS TERRADO
Game Saturday (Kuala Lumpur)
4 p.m. Westports Malaysia vs San Miguel
Manila, Philippines – Fil-American Chris Banchero has been spectacular ever since he joined the San Miguel Beermen at the latter part of the AirAsia ASEAN Basketball League regular season.
But Banchero turned in perhaps his finest performance in the most opportune time when he produced 18 points, 16 assists and six steals as the Beermen survived past the Westports Malaysia Dragons in overtime, 111-104.
The 6-foot-1 guard, sporting charismatic looks and a John Stockton-like shorts that would make the ladies giggle, carried SMB during its grueling clash with the Malaysians in the first game of their semis series.
His points were expected but fed imports Nick Fazekas and Duke Crews inside, and later on Leo Avenido to produce his most productive assist output of the season.
Banchero also came through on defense, swiping some from Malaysia imports Tiras Wade and Brian Williams. In the extra period, his gutsy drive over Williams gave SMB a 97-95 lead. They never looked back from there.
Coach Bobby Parks was pleased of Banchero’s conscious effort to distribute the ball instead of being a scoring-minded guard.
“When he came back, he want ed to score because his a natural scorer,“ said Parks. “My challenge to him was its not about how many points you score but show me you can make 12-14 assists and that’s what a true point guard is all about.“
“He had 16 assists and that’s what it takes to be a good point guard.“
San Miguel’s first-ever playoff game in the ABL wasn’t easy. Malaysia pulled plenty of rabbits out of its hat by hitting tightly-contested shots and battling rebounds in the paint.
Williams, the bulky 6-foot-10 import, played with a cut a on his index finger because of a freak accident in practice. Still, he was able to make 32 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists and three steals.
Seemed like the injury turned out to be good karma for Williams. The Beermen were caught by surprise when Williams, a 35percent three-point shooter, unloaded three crucial triples.
Patrick Cabahug had 24 points including some tough shots over Leo Avenido as Malaysia achieved its goal of hitting its outside shots. However, the Dragons fell short and are now in a must-win situation on Saturday in Kuala Lumpur.
“They made some unbelievable shots,“ said Parks. “Brian Williams was even shooting threes with bank shots and Cabahug hurt us a lot and we better make some more defensive adjustments.“