Inquirer 7: PBA highlights
While Hidilyn Diaz certainly deserves to be the toast of Philippine sports this year, there were a lot more moments worthy of celebration all around the country’s athletic venues.
The Philippine Basketball Association, the collegiate scene and volleyball were among those that cornered a lot of the spotlight. We take a look at those three and list the top newsmakers of each in a three-part edition of the Inquirer 7.
We tip off with the PBA, which had a lot of highs—and a handful of lows—in the year about to end.
San Miguel Beer rallies from 0-3 down
Hands-down, the Beermen made the biggest wave after coming back from 0-3 down in the best-of-seven Philippine Cup title series against Alaska, completing the most improbable comeback in all of professional sports in the world.
Given up for lost after the Aces had erected a 3-0 lead, the Beermen took Game 4 on a token appearance by June Mar Jajardo, who missed the start of the series with an injury.
That became the turning point as the Aces couldn’t put the Beermen away after regulation. It was just the new lease on life that San Miguel needed as Fajardo returned and helped the team win the last three games of the series in convincing fashion.
Brgy. Ginebra ends title wait
With one flick of the wrist, Justin Brownlee ignited a nationwide celebration after leading the crowd-darling Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings to the Governors’ Cup title over hard-fighting Meralco.
Flying in as a replacement for the injured Paul Harris, Brownlee went about his business without any fanfare and helped the Kings scuttle San Miguel in the Final Four before tripping the Bolts in Game 6.
Brownlee made the game-winning buzzer-beating shot that reverberated all over the country and shook the Smart Araneta Coliseum to its foundations as Ginebra won a first title since ruling the Commissioner’s Cup in 2008.
Rain or Shine rules Commissioner’s Cup with lowest-scoring import ever
Yeng Guiao has had a penchant for bringing in prolific imports and winning championships. His latest title conquest, though, was the exact opposite.
After trying three reinforcements that didn’t fit, Guiao settled for burly and unheralded Pierre Henderson-Niles in the latter stages of the Commissioner’s Cup.
Henderson-Niles’ paltry offensive skills turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the Elasto Painters, as Guiao was able to maximize the depth of his local lineup to chop down Greg Slaughter and Barangay Ginebra in the quarterfinals before ousting June Mar Fajardo and the Beermen in the Final Four.
Henderson-Niles, after averaging just 9.7 points a contest, would go down in history as the lowest-scoring import ever to help his team win a PBA title.
June Mar Fajardo bags unprecedented third straight MVP
There’s no doubt the June Mar Fajardo is the most dominant big man this league has seen—three straight MVP trophies will attest to that.
No player in the history of the PBA has won the MVP three consecutive seasons, and though Fajardo’s career averages of 16.7 points, 12.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks would pale in comparison to those of some of the league’s elite in the past, he manages to deliver when needed the most.
Fajardo is just in his fifth year and being just 27 years old, the all-time MVP record jointly held by Ramon Fernandez and Alvin Patrimonio is seriously close to being broken.
Alapag retires—again—but this time, as the league’s all-time three-point shots leader
Jimmy Alapag, the former PBA MVP and Gilas Pilipinas hero, came out of retirement in August 2015 and shot the lights out from afar like only he can.
This time seeing action for Meralco after 12 seasons with Talk ‘N Text, Alapag helped the Bolts make a first title series appearance, only to fall agonizingly short against Barangay Ginebra in the Governors’ Cup.
The comeback was short lived, but Alapag made the most out of it as he bid the PBA adieu for the second time last Nov. 5 as the new all-time leader in three-point shots made with 1,250, surpassing the great Allan Caidic.
Alapag’s reason for retiring? He turns 39 on Friday.
Yeng Guiao’s move to NLEX was the biggest news in the last offseason, until that transfer made Paul Lee the biggest name in the trade market.
With Guiao leaving Rain or Shine after six fruitful seasons, management deemed it best to ship Lee to Star for former two-time MVP James Yap as the duo effectively became the franchise players of their new squads.
Trading superstars in the PBA comes once in a blue moon, and this one came as a surprise to a lot of fans.
Ginebra playoff run saves PBA from bad year at the tills
Ginebra’s drawing power saved the PBA from a dismal performance at the box office.
Making a run at the Governors’ Cup championship in search of ending an eight-year title drought, the Gin Kings packed venues in the playoffs and made the board, and the Commissioner’s Office, end the season with a smile.
A check with sources from the Commissioner’s Office bared that, with ticket prices escalated during championship games, a full house at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao netted the PBA something close to P6 million a game.
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