MACAO – San Miguel Beer looks to grab an outright semifinals berth in the East Asia League Terrific 12 as it battles defending champion Ryukyu Golden Kings at the end of the group stage Thursday at the Tap Seac Multisports Pavilion here.
The Beermen and the Golden Kings tangle in the main game at 7 p.m., needing no less than a victory to avoid any quirks of the quotient system and advance to the Final Four of the tournament featuring some of the top commercial ball clubs around Asia.
The winningest franchise in PBA history seized the top spot in Group B after demolishing a gutsy Shenzhen Aviators team, 90-76, to the delight of the partisan Filipino crowd at the venue.
Governors' Cup import Dezmine Wells exploded for 29 points while Terrence Romeo finished with 17 points, including back-to-back three-pointers late in the game that took the fight out of the Aviators.
The Beermen pulled off the victory despite playing without injured starters June Mar Fajardo (ankle) and Marcio Lassiter (knee), along with Alex Cabagnot (flu). Big man Kelly Nabong will only arrive in time for the game against the Golden Kings after attending to a personal matter in the U.S.
The rousing win by San Miguel somehow made up for the losses absorbed by Blackwater Elite and the TnT Katropa in their respective group.
The Elite, playing without starters Mike Digregorio (flu) and rookie Bobby Ray Parks (Achilles injury), along with big man Rabeh Al-Hussaini, fell against the Seoul SK Knights in Group A action, 93-77, while the Katropa, minus Troy Rosario, Don Trollano, and Brian Heruela, came up short against former NBA player Lance Stephenson and the Liaoning Flying Leopards, 96-91, in Group D.
Only the top team in each group will advance to the crossover semis, with the two winning sides at the end of the Final Four disputing the championship and the $150,000 prize money.
The Beermen are aware they have their hands full against the defending champions.
But Chris Ross, who finished with 11 points, six rebounds, five assists, and six assists, said San Miguel, seeking to complete a rare grand slam this season, is up to the challenge.
"We're looking forward to what the rest of the tournament has for us," he said.
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