The San Miguel Beermen made sure it owned a piece of history – and the championship – after becoming the first PBA team to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series with a 96-89 win over the Alaska Aces in Game 7 of the SMART BRO PBA Philippine Cup Finals on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
San Miguel’s historic feat, dubbed by fans as the ‘Beeracle’, allowed the team to clinch the 22nd championship in the franchise’s history. It was also the second All-Filipino crown in as many seasons for the Beermen, who have now won the title in three of the last four conferences.
June Mar Fajardo, who missed the first four games of the series, led the way with 21 points and 15 rebounds while Chris Ross also put up a heroic performance with 21 points – including four three-pointers – alongside five rebounds and five assists.
Marcio Lassiter added 15 points while Arwind Santos added a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards.
Alaska put up a gutsy stand in the fourth quarter, where they outscored SMB 38-28, but could not get the job done in the end.
Chris Banchero led the Aces, now the runners-up to the Beermen for a third time in the last three conferences, with 21 points while Calvin Abueva had 16 points and nine rebounds.
Vic Manuel, who had a breakout series for Alaska in these finals, finished with just three points while playing on a sprained ankle he hurt early in the game.
Alaska coach Alex Compton made some unusual decisions to start the game. He burned all three of his mandatory timeouts in the first half before the game could even begin, leading to what was essentially a six-minute delay to the game.
He then made a platoon substitution to start the contest, replacing four players from his starting lineup with Abueva, Manuel, Sonny Thoss and RJ Jazul, many of whom regularly come from off the bench.
At the halfway point of the first quarter, a glimpse at the Alaska bench saw them in a huddle, not even paying attention to the game.
The gamesmanship barely seemed to affect San Miguel, though, as they jumped out to a 15-8 lead even before their MVP, Fajardo, saw any action.
‘The Kraken’ entered at the 4:30 mark of the game and immediately made an impact, posting up on his undersized defender Noy Baclao for an easy two points. An additional free throw awarded to Ronald Tubid on the rebound play gave the Beermen a double-digit lead, 18-8, late in the first.
Some late three-pointers from Alaska sharpshooter Dondon Hontiveros kept the Aces in the game with San Miguel’s lead trimmed down to just six, 22-16, at the end of the first period.
Fajardo went to work getting some scoring done in the second quarter as the Beermen maintained their lead early in the period. Alaska twice made runs to trim the difference down to four points but some big shots by Ross from long distance pushed San Miguel’s lead back up to 10 points, 38-28
Alaska, though, got a late flurry in, closing the half on an 8-3 run built around a JVee Casio three-pointer and a fastbreak finish from Ping Exciminiano to make it a five-point game, 43-38.
Ross, who started the game alongside Alex Cabagnot in the SMB backcourt, led San Miguel with 11 points. He was the lone player in double figures with Ronald Tubid coming closest with seven points.
Alaska didn’t have anyone with more than six points but had 11 different players contributing at least two points while San Miguel only had eight.
San Miguel shot a much-higher percentage in the first half, 41% to Alaska’s 31%, but turned the ball over 17 times compared to just six.
San Miguel, though, delivered what seemed like the knockout blow in the third quarter.
Fajardo toyed with Alaska’s interior defense en route to 11 big points in the third quarter while Cabagnot, Ross, Santos and Lassiter made some huge impact baskets as they blew the game wide open, taking leads of as high as 21 points, 68-47, after a big 25-7 run right outside the two-minute mark of the quarter.
San Miguel (96) – Fajardo 21, Ross 21, Lassiter 15, Santos 13, Cabagnot 8, Tubid 7, De Ocampo 7, Lutz 2, Espinas 2, Heruela 0.
Alaska (89) – Banchero 21, Abueva 16, Baguio 10, Exciminiano 8, Casio 8, Hontiveros 6, Thoss 4, Baclao 4, Jazul 4, Dela Rosa 3, Manuel 3, Dela Cruz 2, Eman 0, Menk 0.
Quarterscores: 22-16, 43-38, 68-51, 96-89.