No stopping SMB juggernaut
Even the strongest game by Magnolia in the title playoffs could not derail San Miguel Beer’s date with Philippine Basketball Association history on Friday.
Battling for survival after drawing first blood with a big rally from 20 points down at the start of their best-of-seven series with the heavily favored Beermen for the Philippine Cup title, the Hotshots roared ahead by 23 with an explosive show in the first three quarters of Game 5.
But the Beermen, who pulled off a scrambling 84-80 decision in Game 4 for a 3-1 series advantage, gave the Hotshots another bitter lesson in closing out crucial games.
Still trailing by 18 early in the last period, SMB worked behind a full-court press to force overtime at 86-all on a three-point shot by Arwind Santos, then won it after the second extension, 108-99, behind June Mar Fajardo.
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo, earlier honored with a record sixth Best Player of the Conference plum, went on to bag the Finals Most Valuable Player award after finishing with 42 points on top of 20 rebounds.
It was the league’s first fourth straight title splurge in the Philippine Cup once known as the All-Filipino and the sixth championship in the last 10 tournaments for the Beermen, who now have 25 PBA crowns overall since the league opened in 1975.
And with top draft pick Christian Standhardinger reinforcing the defending champion Beermen in the coming Commissioner’s Cup set to start April 22, coach Leo Austria, now with a perfect 6-of-6 record in title shots, has again started to entertain thoughts of a Grand Slam.
The 6-foot-8 Fil-German Standhardinger will team up with Fajardo and Co. after his current stint with the Hong Kong Eastern in the Asean Basketball League.
Last year, SMB had a chance to match the team’s three conference title sweep in 1989 under Norman Black, but Barangay Ginebra San Miguel eliminated the Beermen in the quarterfinals of the Governors’ Cup, which the Gin Kings eventually won.
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