Beermen overcome Aces to complete PBA’s greatest comeback

Joey Villar, Nelson Beltran (The Philippine Star) - February 3, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – The amazing San Miguel Beermen secured a niche in PBA history that may take years to breach as they booked a record comeback with a 96-89 decision over the Alaska Aces to retain the Smart Bro PBA Philippine Cup crown before an overflow crowd at the MOA Arena last night.

The Beermen pulled it off with their gallant effort, a united front and a deep resolve to come back,  believing in themselves when nobody else did, and completed the magical, unprecedented title run before close to 24,000 fans.   Written off by not a few after falling behind 0-3 in the series, the Beermen just refused to die and, in the end, lived a dream.

Reigning back-to-back PBA MVP Junmar Fajardo, one-time MVP winner Arwind Santos and do-it-all guard Chris Ross were the catalysts as the Beermen reaffirmed their stature as the league’s premier team with a third crown in the last four conferences and 22nd overall.

Fajardo (with 21 points and 15 rebounds) and Santos (with 13 markers and 10 boards) delivered double-double numbers while Ross put in a personal conference high 21 points that went with five rebounds and five assists.

With series averages of 8.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.7 steals and being the biggest hero in Games Four and Seven, Ross was named the Cignal Finals MVP winner.

“We just believed that we can do it, and we just kept on fighting and fighting,” said Ross.

“I’m a believer. I believe that miracles happen,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria.

Sustaining a great resolve shown from their first knockout game, the Beermen repeated their Game Seven conquest of the same opponent in the same tourney last season.

The dynasty continued for the franchise that had its earlier glory days with a team led by Hector Calma, Mon Fernandez, Allan Caidic and Samboy Lim.

From a close 43-38 halftime lead, the Beermen went on a fiery breakaway in the third quarter and held off repeated rallies by the Aces in the final canto to annex a sixth all-Filipino crown in all.

They initially stayed alive with a 110-104 overtime win in Game Four, an 86-73 triumph also in OT in the next game and a 100-89 victory in Game Six.

In Game Seven, the Beermen asserted themselves right away.

The Beermen led by 10 thrice at 18-8, 38-28 and 40-30 before settling for a five-point lead at the half at 43-38.

In a curious move, the Aces called three successive timeouts just a second into the game after Santos was called for a jump-ball violation.

Aparently the Aces came in from a heavy traffic, with little time for warmup and had to do so during the three timeouts called by coach Alex Compton.

Then after those three timeouts, RJ Jazul, Vic Manuel, Calvin Abueva and Sonny Thoss checked in to sub for Rome dela Rosa, Dondon Hontiveros, Sam Eman and Eric Menk.

But the Alaska trick seemingly didn’t do any good to the team with the Aces struggling with a mere 31-percent shooting in the first half.

Ross went 3-of-4 from the three-point land and collected 11 points in all plus three rebounds and two assists against three errors with Fajardo chipping in six markers and eight rebounds as the Beermen set the pace almost throughout the opening half.

 Yancy de Ocampo broke the ice with a three-pointer then the Aces spurted ahead at 8-5 before Santos, Ross, Fajardo and Ronald Tubid teamed up in a 13-to-nothing run to give the Beermen their first double-digit spread at 18-8.

The scores:

SAN MIGUEL 96 – Fajardo 21, Ross 21, Lassiter 15, Santos 13, Cabagnot 8, De Ocampo 7, Tubid 7, Espinas 2, Lutz 2, Heruela 0. 

ALASKA 89 – Banchero 21, Abueva 16, Baguio 10, Casio 8, Excima 4, Dela Rosa 3, Manuel 3, Dela Cruz 2, Eman 0, Menk 0.

Quarterscores: 22-16, 43-38, 68-51, 96-89

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