MANILA, Philippines — San Miguel Beer pulled off what’s never been done all series long – win back-to-back games – to achieve a feat that eluded even legendary Crispa – win five straight PBA Philippine Cup titles.
And the Beermen had to dig deep to see this one through, overcoming an iced-cold second-quarter showing and fighting back from a 17-point deficit to clinch No. 5 with a pulsating 72-71 escape act over tough Magnolia last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
After getting the ignominy of matching the all-time lowest scoring in a quarter in PBA finals history with five in the second period, the embattled Beermen recalled their old deadly form and bamboozled their way back to into the make-or-break Game Seven with a herculean effort towards the finish.
Alex Cabagnot fired nine to spearhead a game-changing 22-13 assault in the fourth, including the go-ahead fadeaway jumper, while June Mar Fajardo grabbed a league-record 31 rebounds as SMB extended its reign to a fifth season, doing so in comeback fashion.
The Beermen won the back-and-forth series, 4-3, after facing a 2-3 deficit. The proud champs put themselves in a position to strike gold again after forcing a 3-3 standoff via a 98-86 verdict in Game Six.
San Miguel had a big mountain to climb in the closeout game as Magnolia buried them early with a 43-26 lead. With their dynasty under siege, the Beermen rose to the challenge and mounted a final stand, finally overtaking Magnolia at 62-61, and outduelling the Hotshots in a fierce exchange heading home.
Cabagnot put SMB on top, 72-71 with 57.2 seconds to go then a couple of sequences later, Fajardo hauled down his 31st rebound off a Jio Jalalon miss, which enabled him to dislodge Marcelo Simbulan’s all-time mark of 29 posted way back in 1975, to ice it.
“It was extremely difficult. Magnolia gave us a great fight,” said Cabagnot, who topscored for the Beermen with 18 markers plus three assists.
“Both teams deserved to win the championship. We just got lucky tonight,” said SMB coach Leo Austria, who steered the franchise to its ninth Phl Cup diadem and 26th overall.
Fajardo finished with 17 markers to go with the record rebound en route to the Finals MVP plum.
Fajardo said he could not have done it all without the help of his teammates, the coaching staff, management and the fans.
San Miguel 72 – Cabagnot 18, Santos 17, Fajardo 17, Ross 7, Lassiter 5, Romeo 4, Standhardinger 4, Rosser 0, Pessumal 0.
Magnolia 71 – Sangalang 18, Reavis 11, Lee 11, Jalalon 8, Barroca 7, Ramos 6, Melton 5, Dela Rosa 3, Brondial 2, Herndon 0.
Quarterscores: 20-24, 25-38, 50-58, 72-71