MANILA, Philippines -- San Miguel Beer won their first game without All-Star guard Terrence Romeo last Monday by holding off the TerraFirma Dyip, 105-98, in the Angeles University Foundation Gym.
It was the Beermen's first win in the PBA bubble, after dropping their first two games of the league's restart. The usual suspects showed up for SMB -- Mo Tautuaa had 25 points, while Arwind Santos had 20 points and 14 rebounds.
Marcio Lassiter added 18 points, while Alex Cabagnot had an all-around outing of eight points, five rebounds, and five assists.
But it was the improved play of less-heralded guards Paul Zamar and Von Pessumal that took San Miguel over the top. Zamar was inserted into the starting line-up and produced 11 points, four rebounds, and three assists, while Pessumal came off the bench to make five three-pointers en route to 17 points.
"I'm so happy for those two guys," said SMB head coach Leo Austria after the game. "Anytime, they are ready naman eh."
Austria acknowledged that neither guard got much playing time in their first two games: Zamar was on the court for about four minutes against Rain or Shine, and 11 minutes against TNT Tropang Giga. Pessumal played under five minutes against ROS and around 18 minutes against TNT.
But with Romeo out for the conference because of a shoulder injury, the two players were called upon to step up.
"This time, we're able to do what is good for the players, and I'm so happy for them, especially si Paul at saka si Pessumal," said Austria. "Actually, maganda 'yung role talaga nila."
"Those players off the bench really stepped up and then they have a role to know," he also said.
Both players will need to keep producing at a high level for SMB, as the Beermen look to chase the league leaders after a shaky start inside the bubble. At 2-2, they are mired in a five-way logjam in the middle of the league standings, with a tough stretch coming up.
They play Alaska on Saturday, followed by a game against Meralco on Wednesday before a highly-anticipated showdown with Barangay Ginebra on Friday.
"If we lost this game, it's really hard to recover because we're up (against) strong teams in the next few games," admitted Austria. "I'm so thankful for the players because of their sense of urgency."