Beermen nip Aces for title
MANILA, Philippines–There wasn’t anything new in San Miguel Beer blowing a big lead Wednesday night.
What made this one different was the way the Beermen recovered from another implosion to return to the throne as kings of the PBA Philippine Cup after a 14-year wait.
Arwind Santos hit the last four San Miguel points and keyed an 80-78 triumph in a Game 7 that will go down in league history as one of the best-fought thrillers, this one fashioned before 22,511 fans at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen blew a 23-point first half lead to trail, 74-68, midway through the fourth period before regaining their wits in the endgame to finally take out the hard-fighting Aces and win the series, 4-3.
The 6-foot-4 Santos shoved the Beermen ahead for good, 79-78, with 43.7 seconds left with a booming triple, before hitting a free throw with 18.9 remaining that was enough to turn back the Aces.
After a wild finish that saw a technical foul for a sued timeout the Beermen no longer had and a missed JV Casio triple at the buzzer, the Beermen finally nailed their 20th overall championship, but just their fifth all-Filipino crown.
“This is unbelievable,” San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria addressed the banner crowd after the game.
“I know from the start that it is really hard to beat Alaska,” Austria said. “Kung mayroong matigas ang ulo, sila ang pinakamatigas ang ulo (There are stubborn teams but they are the most stubborn of all). We were only able to recover from their big rally.
“I have to appreciate my players,” continued Austria, who won a championship while calling the shots in his first conference with the Beermen. “They simply did not give up.”
Alaska, which came from 22 points down in Game 1, from 21 in Game 3 and from 17 last Sunday, trailed, 48-25 late in the second period before eventually taking that late six-point edge.
The Aces, though, went scoreless from the final 1:35.
Santos, named the Petron Sprint 4T PBA Press Corps Finals MVP, scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds that went with four blocks, while Fajardo used a hot offensive start to finish with 21 points and 25 boards, marking the first time in PBA Finals history that a local finished with a “20-20” in a Game 7.
SAN MIGUEL BEER 80—Santos 22, Fajardo 21, Tubid 12, Lutz 10, Cabagnot 10, Lassiter 5, Maierhofer 0, Ross 0, Kramer 0, Omolon 0, Pascual 0, Fortuna 0, Semerad 0, Chua 0.
ALASKA 78—Abueva 23, Thoss 15, Baguio 11, Casio 7, Banchero 6, Manuel 4, Hontiveros 4, Jazul 4, Exciminiano 2, Menk 2, Eman 0, Dela Rosa 0, De la Cruz 0, Espinas 0.
Quarters: 21-12, 48-27, 62-59, 80-78
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