MANILA, Philippines – San Miguel suffered the same fate as TNT and got blown out in its East Asia Super League Champions Week opener in Japan following a 96-68 loss to the Ryukyu Golden Kings on Thursday, March 2.
A day after the Tropang Giga absorbed a 33-point rout from the Utsunomiya Brex, the Beermen unraveled against the runner-up of the previous Japan B. League season after losing star big man June Mar Fajardo early.
Fajardo entered the game with 5:30 minutes left in the opening quarter only to leave seconds later as he hurt his left knee following a collision with Ryukyu import Jack Cooley.
San Miguel still led 10-6 at that point, but the exit of six-time PBA MVP changed the complexion of the game, with the Golden Kings closing out the period on the back of an 18-7 run for a 24-17 lead.
Ryukyu then outscored its foes 25-11 in the second quarter to pull away for good as it tied Korean Basketball League (KBL) powerhouse Anyang KGC at the top of Group A with identical 1-0 records.
Cooley stamped his class for the Golden Kings with 20 points and 16 rebounds, while Keita Imamura also fired 20 points.
Former PBA import Allen Durham turned in an all-around game of 13 points, 16 rebounds, and 6 assists as he proved to be a thorn in the side of the Beermen, whose chances of reaching the finals took a major blow.
Only the top teams from each of the two groups will advance to the championship game.
Signed by Ryukyu last January, Carl Tamayo put up 4 points and 2 rebounds in nearly nine minutes of play in his professional debut for the Japanese club.
Cameron Clark paced San Miguel with 25 points and 4 rebounds, while CJ Perez netted 12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
No other Beermen player scored in double figures as they got buried by as deep as 31 points.
San Miguel import Jessie Govan – brought in by the team specifically for the Champions Week – turned in a quiet performance of 7 points and 3 rebounds in 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, PBA guest team Bay Area Dragons squandered a huge lead and fell to reigning KBL champions Seoul SK Knights, 92-84, despite having Andrew Nicholson and Myles Powell play in their first official game together.
Nicholson posted 35 points and 15 rebounds, while Powell fired 25 points, but Bay Area frittered away an 18-point advantage to fall into a tie with TNT at 0-1 in Group B.
In what could be their final EASL match, the Tropang Giga will try to salvage their campaign as they face the Knights on Friday, March 3.
Ryukyu 96 – Cooley 20, Imamura 20, Kishimoto 14, Durham 13, Onodera 11, Matsuwaki 5, Tamayo 4, Watanabe 4, Tashiro 3, Flippin 2, Maki 0.
San Miguel 68 – Clark 25, Perez 12, Govan 7, Enciso 6, Tautuaa 5, Lassiter 4, Cruz 4, Brondial 4, Manuel 1, Ross 0, Fajardo 0.
Quarters: 24-17, 49-28, 70-48, 96-68.
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