Photo by the PBA Media Bureau
San Miguel falls behind early but recovers late to win 4th consecutive Philippine Cup championship
As if it was ever in question.
In a game that saw the defending champions fell behind by double digits throughout the first three quarters, the San Miguel Beermen relied on their 4-time MVP and 6-time Best Player of the Conference winner, June Mar Fajardo to carry them into another championship and unfortunately for the Magnolia Hotshots, June Mar Fajardo did what he does best: dominate. And when the game went into two extra periods, the Beermen relied on their championship experience and their defense to frustrate the Hotshots who couldn't get a decent shot, especially in the endgame.
And both the Beermen's championship experience and the defense that frustrated Magnolia to the final possession were enough for San Miguel to finally celebrate their 4th consecutive championship in the PBA Philippine Cup after a 108-99 over a Magnolia Hotshots team who came close at extending this series to a Game 6. And frankly, the Hotshots threw everything they could to extend this series but couldn't stop June Mar Fajardo and the rest of the league's best all-Filipino crew especially in the 4th quarter.
The Beermen did many things wrong in the early stages of the game but they also did many things right to win the championship and below are some of them:
June Mar Fajardo's Dominance
In a previous article, this pundit on wheels stated that for the Beermen to be able to disperse the Hotshots for good, June Mar Fajardo must do what he does best: dominate. And he delivered. The Kraken added another Finals MVP award to his resume after finishing Game 5 with 42 points, 20 rebounds, a steal and a block while playing for 54 minutes. He went 14 for 24 from the field and 14 for 15 from the free throw line- most of those attempts came in the 4th quarter and in the two overtime periods. Now that's how the Kraken dominates.
Chris Ross' Brilliance
June Mar Fajardo may have won the Finals MVP plum but none of these would have been possible if not to Chris Ross. To begin with, Chris Ross played throughout the playoffs while nursing a thigh injury. In Game 5, Chris Ross had 13 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists and 8 STEALS- including the crucial steal in the second overtime period. Sure, Ross only made 20% of his shot attempts but when the championship was at stake, Ross was able to deliver, nailing that three-pointer with 3:40 to go in the second overtime period.
If there's one thing that makes beating San Miguel a headache, it's the firepower that San Miguel's starters have. In Game 5, Leo Austria's starting unit combined for 101 of the Beermen's 108 points. In fact, the starters of San Miguel had scored more than the entire Magnolia team. Aside from June Mar Fajardo's 42 points and Chris Ross' 13 points, San Miguel also got 23 points from Arwind Santos who drained that booming three-pointer late in the fourth quarter to force an overtime period. Marcio Lassiter added 16 points despite missing all of his 9 attempts from downtown while Alex Cabagnot had 7 points
It's a shame indeed that Paul Lee's best game of the series went for naught as Magnolia faltered in the end. While it's a painful loss considering that they were up as high as 23 points, we gotta laud the Hotshots for putting up a fight against a mighty Beermen squad. After all, it's not every day that a team can push San Miguel to two extra periods.
For San Miguel, their latest championship hiked their all-time number of PBA titles to 24. But this one is probably one of the memorable ones because this is against the Hotshots whom nobody expected to be in the Finals and yet they did. They took Game 1, and almost took Game 4. If anything, this series taught us one thing: when it's winning time, the Beermen are unstoppable.
San Miguel 108 - Fajardo 42, Santos 23, Lassiter 16, Ross 13, Cabagnot 7, Heruela 3, Rosser 2, Espinas 2.
Magnolia 99 - Lee 21, Dela Rosa 19, Reavis 13, Barroca 12, Sangalang 11, Ramos 8, Gamalinda 6, Jalalon 5, Pascual 2, Brondial 2
Quarters: 19-21, 37-53, 60-74, 86-86, 94-94, 108-99.