Dragons breathe fire, torch Beermen

Guest team Bay Area proved to be too big, too tough inside as it manhandled San Miguel Beer, 113-87, in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

After absorbing their first loss of the tournament, a sound 93-111 beatdown from the hands of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, the Dragons quickly got back on track and brought their A-game against the Beermen, who are missing the services of six-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo.

Fajardo, the league’s most dominant force, is out after undergoing surgery for his injured throat.

Fajardo incurred the injury in the Beermen’s previous game against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters after getting an incidental hit from import Steve Taylor Jr.

Leading the charge for the Dragons was import Andrew Nicholson, who made sure he will play consistent basketball all game long.

Unlike the team’s previous loss where he came away with 26 points in the first half, but tallied only two the rest of the way, the National Basketball Association veteran was solid throughout.

He finished with 39 points and hit 15 of the team’s 30 points in the second period when the Dragons practically broke the game wide open.

None among the Beermen was able to match up with his efficient inside-out game.

The import also added 12 rebounds and two steals.

But Nicholson wasn’t the only big presence the Beermen had difficulty matching up with.

Liu Chuanxing, the 7-foot-5 center and member of the Chinese national men’s basketball team, was also a towering presence and used his size advantage to the hilt as he came away with 12 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.

It was a big bounce-back victory for the Dragons, who improved their win-loss record to 4-1 and firmed up their hold of the solo second spot.

“We’ve learned from the loss (against Ginebra), which was nice to see and we’ve got better against a quality team,” Bay Area coach Brian Goorjian said.

“I just think the important thing is continuously growing and getting Andrew familiar in the groove. It’s really challenging.”

Bay Area hit 48 percent from the field (43-of-89) while holding the usually explosive San Miguel Beer team to only 37 percent clip (32-of-86).

It was the Beermen’s worst loss since a 124-90 beating at the hands of the NLEX Road Warriors in the 2020 Philippine Cup elimination round in Clark City, Pampanga.

Hayden Joel Blankley, a consistent performer for the Dragons, also came out ready to perform against an elite team like San Miguel as he finished a rebound away from posting a double-double.

He contributed 17 markers while Songwei Zhu and Kobey Lam each tallied 16 apiece in a balanced firepower displayed by Bay Area.

In contrast, Diamond Stone, who was expected to carry much of the load for the Beermen in the absence of Fajardo, was more of an eyesore.

Stone ended up with only 11 points on a paltry 5-of-18 shooting from the field, but what’s more disappointing was his inactivity on the defensive end as he was literally outplayed by Nicholson.
CJ Perez carried the fight for the Beermen, who now slipped to 1-2 card.

A two-time scoring champion, Perez finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

The scores:

BAY AREA (113) — Nicholson 39, Blankley 17, Lam 16, Zhu 16, Liu 12, Reid 6, Song 3, Ju 2, Ewing 2, Yang 0, Liang 0, Zheng 0.

SAN MIGUEL (87) — Perez 19, Manuel 15, Stone 11, Tautuaa 9, Enciso 9, Cruz 8, Lassiter 7, Brondial 4, Zamar 3, Ross 2, Canete 0, Herndon 0, Faundo 0.

QUARTERS: 28-17; 58-40; 86-58; 113-87.

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