#Beeracles do happen.
Last night, the San Miguel Beermen pulled off the most amazing comeback in basketball history—winning four straight games and nabbing the championship after being down 0-3 in the best-of-seven championship series. It's a feat that not even the best teams in the NBA have accomplished.
The gutsy Beermen took home the 2016 PBA All-Filipino Cup crown, their sixth All-Filipino championship and 22nd PBA title overall. They downed the Alaska Aces, 96-89, in front of a sold-out crowd at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
San Miguel was led by Chris Ross who scored 21 points—including four big three-pointers—together with five assists and five rebounds. Ross' heroic performance was recognized as he was named the Finals MVP.
Big man June Mar Fajardo, who missed the first four games of the series due to a knee injury, manned up and contributed big for Beer Nation. The Kraken recorded a double-double of 21 points and 15 boards in what could be one of the most memorable games of his basketball career.
The Aces, on the other hand, were led by Chris Banchero and his 21 points. Calvin Abueva did not have a big game like many anticipated but he still flirted with a double-double after recording 16 points and nine rebounds.
The Confusing Start
If anything, the night certainly started weirdly for Gatas Republic. Right after tip-off—and with only just a second gone from the game clock—Alaska head coach Alex Compton surprisingly burned all of his three mandatory timeouts, immediately creating a six-minute delay.
That's just part one.
Right after the confusing timeouts, Coach Compton also made a four-man substitution. He replaced Samigue Eman, Erik Menk, Rome Dela Rosa, and Dondon Hontiveros, all role players who were surprisingly called on to start, with his regular starters (Abueva, Vic Manuel, Sonny Thoss, and RJ Jazul).
Was it to break the Beermen's winning momentum? To give his players more time to warm up and digest the game plan? Did he eat too much Kit-Kat? We really don't know the motives behind Coach Compton's head-scratching decisions.
When the game finally started, the more composed SMB squad came out firing, taking an early 15-8 lead against the relaxed-looking Alaska squad. The Kraken entered the game at around the four-minute mark of the first quarter and immediately went to work. He posted up the smaller Alaska frontcourt and got an easy basket inside the paint to push the lead up to 17-8.
Veteran sniper Hontiveros kept his squad in the game as he detonated three-point bombs one after another and kept the game close, 22-16. However, they would lose a key cog in Manuel, as the crafty undersized power forward hurt his ankle during the middle of the first canto.
How SMB Brewed The Win
The second quarter saw livelier competition between the two squads. Eventual finals MVP Ross and Fajardo did sizable damage to maintain their double-digit lead against Alaska through most of the period. The Aces would creep back in the game though with an 8-3 run started by a JV Casio three. The game entered at halftime with a close 43-38 tally, in favor of the Beermen.
San Miguel shot a better percentage in the first half as they swished in 41 percent of their shots compared to Alaska's dismal 31 percent. What kept the game close were SMB's turnovers. In the first half alone, they turned the ball over 17 times compared to Alaska's six TOs.
It was in the third quarter that SMB dominated the Aces from all four corners of the hardcourt. Coach Compton and his squad found no answer for The Kraken in the post who punished them with 11 big points. Together with Alex Cabagnot, Arwind Santos, and Ross making key baskets, SMB blew the game wide open, and etched a momentous 25-7 run as the third quarter came to a close.
The Beermen also managed to hold off Alaska's offense, allowing the Aces only a total of 13 points in the third. The period ended at 68-51, with the Beermen seizing a comfortable lead.
The Milky Comeback
The fourth quarter was another ball game though.
Twelve minutes away from being on the wrong side of history, the Aces woke up. They intensified their defense, trapping the Beermen with their patented full-court press and attacking relentlessly—mostly coming from Abueva and Chris Banchero. The two combined for a 12-2 run, which made it a five-point game, 75-70, with under eight minutes remaining.
Clearly, the momentum was on Alaska's side, however with their defense all focused on Fajardo, they left a wide-open Santos on top of the perimeter. The former FEU standout made them pay as he splashed a clutch three.
That shot also proved to be a lengthy dagger to Alaska's heart. It stopped the Aces run and kept them permanently at bay. Alaska fought all the way to the end, but there was no comeback that night for them. There was one however for SMB. The 96-89 victory capped off their resurrection from a 0-3 deficit.
A Piece Of History
As we've said, no other basketball team has accomplished what the Beermen have done. So, congrats, SMB, for winning this year's All-Filipino Conference. Painom naman kayo!
You can send the beers in bottles, in cans, or kegs. Kami na bahala sa kwento!