MANILA, Philippines – Renaldo Balkman rose to the occasion just when San Miguel needed him the most as the Beermen escaped the TNT KaTropa, 99-94, in the 2018 PBA Commissioner's Cup a the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday, June 16.
The Beermen needed every bit of the Puerto Rican import's 43 points, 15 rebounds, 6 blocks and 4 assists to bag their 4th win in 8 games after losing key cogs Arwind Santos and Marcio Lassiter to ejections.
Lassiter was thrown out of the game together with the KaTropa's Terrence Romeo late in the second quarter after they figured in a word war while Santos, together with Tony Semerad, were ejected after they engaged in a mini scuffle midway through the 4th.
With the game tied at 83-all, the Santos-Semerad altercation seemed to work wonders for San Miguel as Kelly Williams missed both of the free throws rewarded to TNT following a flagrant foul penalty 2 slapped on Santos.
Chris Ross, meanwhile, sank both of his foul shots courtesy of Semerad's disqualifying foul to give the Beermen a two-point lead – an advantage that stood until the final buzzer sounded.
Balkman went on personal 6-0 blitz to push San Miguel's lead to 8 points, 94-86, with a little over 4 minutes left before the KaTropa threatened a comeback only to fall short of time.
"I'm so happy with the players, especially Balkman Renaldo, talagang pinaninindagan niya 'yung sinabi niya na, 'We will win. We will win,'" said San Miguel head coach Leo Austria.
(I'm so happy with the players, especially Renaldo Balkman, he stayed true to his word when he said, 'We will win. We will win.')
Backstopping Balkman were June Mar Fajardo, who had 19 points and 6 rebounds, Alex Cabagnot, who chipped in 12 points, 4 assists and 3 steals, and Chris Ross, who chalked up 7 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 steals.
Joshua Smith paced the KaTropa, who crashed to their second straight loss, with 26 points, 18 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and two blocks.
Roger Pogoy and Don Trollano had 13 points apiece for TNT, which fell to a 6-3 record.
San Miguel (99): Balkman 43, Fajardo 19, Cabagnot 12, Ross 7, Lassiter 7, Santos 7, Pessumal 4, Ganuelas-Rosser 0, Lanete 0
TNT (94): Smith 26, Pogoy 13, Trollano 13, Rosario 8, Williams 8, Castro 7, Semerad 6, Reyes 6, Cruz 3, Romeo 2, Garcia 2, Taha 0
Quarter scores: 33-22, 55-46, 79-72, 99-94
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.