Santos tows Beermen to first Philippine Cup title in 14 years
Joey Villar, Nelson Beltran (The Philippine Star) - January 21, 2015 - 10:55pm

MANILA, Philippines – Arwind Santos made the biggest 3-pointer of his career with a series on the line and San Miguel Beer, bungling three games on endgame meltdown, held on to this big one, squeezing out an 80-78 thriller of a win over Alaska Milk to bag the PBA Philippine Cup championship before a delirious crowd of 22,511 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday night.

The Beermen teetered on the brink after blowing away a huge 23-point first-half lead but came through with their own fightback at the finish and salvaged a first all-Filipino crown since their finals conquest of the Barangay Ginebra Kings in 2001.

Santos fired a trey with 43.7 seconds to go, highlighting San Miguel’s own rally from a five-point deficit in the last eight minutes of the game and, in the end, the Beermen landed where they looked destined to from the start of the tourney.

The two SMB MVPs in Santos and Junemar Fajardo delivered the games expected from them, combining for 43 points and 37 rebounds as the Beermen came out triumphant in the do-or-die setto and claimed their first title since their Governors Cup triumph in 2011 under coach Ato Agustin.

San Miguel, the league’s winningest ball club, nailed a fifth all-Filipino crown and 20th all in all.

For coming through in Game Seven to end up with remarkable series averages of 18.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 2.2 assists and 1.4 steals, Santos was named the Petron Sprint 4T Finals MVP.

Santos logged 22 points with five triples, 12 rebounds, four blocks and two assists while Fajardo piled up 25 rebounds and 21 markers – the first 20-20 game by any PBA local player in a finals game.

Ronald Tubid, Chris Lutz and Alex Cabagnot contributed at least 12 points each but the Beermen still found it very tough to shake off the gritty Alaska side.

“Alaska proved they’re a worthy championship contender. We’re just fortunate the game ended in our favor in the end,” said coach Leo Austria, winning a championship in his very first conference at the helm of the San Miguel team.

The Aces were in the fight all the way to the finish, eventually dying down only after Jvee Casio missed a potential game-winning three-point try at the buzzer.

They pushed the Beermen to the limit despite a woeful 10-of-25 free throws.

“There’s not a group I’d rather coach. I’m still proud of these guys,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton.

Calvin Abueva and Sonny Thoss put up a tremendous stand against Santos and Fajardo but missed crucial shots in the last 25 seconds.

The Aces were down by just a point, 78-79, when Thoss missed a post move against Fajardo.

Then after Santos made it a two-point lead on a split from the line, Abueva muffed a running looper and a follow-up.

The Aces had last chance to steal the game when they grabbed possession following a jump ball between Fajardo and Abueva with two seconds to go.

Fajardo and Santos both came out strong, scoring 15 and 12, respectively, as they matched the output of the entire Alaska team in the first half.

Fajardo logged double-double numbers right in the first two quarters as he also snared 12 rebounds, including seven off the offensive board.

Coming to the rescue of teammate Tubid, Fajardo attacked Sam Eman midway through the second quarter but quickly put his focus back on the game, rattling in back-to-back baskets to spark a run that gave the Beermen a 23-point spread, 48-25, shortly before the end of the first half.

Fajardo and Eman both were called a technical foul in the incident.

The Beermen fired seven 3-pointers and dominated the boards, 26-14, in taking the half at 48-27.

But the Aces were back in the fight just in the next quarter.

Shifting into high gear in their return from the halftime huddle, the Aces charged to within three at 57-60, and could have seized the lead if not for six missed free throws.

Alaska eventually pulled even at 68 on a layup by Chris Exciminiano with 5:58 left to play and moved ahead, 70-68, on a drive by Cyrus Baguio 25 seconds later.

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