For the first time in the Philippine Basketball scenery, a championship is achieved by a team despite facing a 0-3 hole to start it. In Game 4 and the possible clincher for Alaska, the Aces were less than three minutes away from sweeping the 2015 defending champs, as they led by 11 over the Beermen. However, the fire of San Miguel just started to ignite at that point, as they were able to escape and eventually pull off their ‘Beeracle Run”.
Let’s track down on how SMB did it.
Game 1: Alaska drew first blood with fourth quarter comeback
San Miguel’s MVP June Mar Fajardo suffered a seemingly punishing left knee injury in their semis clincher against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. Fajardo sat out, giving more minutes to unsung centers with Yancy De Ocampo and Gabby Espinas. The Beermen displayed balanced scoring, notwithstanding the loss of their main gun in Fajardo. They led by a dozen in the fourth quarter, just to lose grip against Alaska’s frenetic defense, in addition to Vic Manuel and Calvin Abueva’s hustle. Alaska outscored San Miguel, 34-16 in the final frame to take Game One of the series, 100-91.
Game 2: Manuel powers Alaska to a 2-0 lead
For the second straight game, the Beermen kept pace with Alaska sans Fajardo, giving them another shot to tie the series. However, Manuel poured in an efficient 18-point game to lead another decisive fourth quarter surge by Alaska. Despite late free throws missed by Alaska, the Beermen succumbed late, as Ronald Tubid and Yancy De Ocampo missed rally-stopping baskets. Alaska started to dominate and looked poised in their accumulated momentum with their 83-80 Game Two victory.
Game 3: Alaska ends up victors in Lucena duel to make it 3-0
The PBA staged its first finals game on the road, held at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena. Once again, the top two teams of the PBA made it neck-to-neck, giving the fans a treat as the match went hanging in the balance. It was a defensive-themed affair in the first three quarters, which ended up in favor of SMB. However, RJ Jazul knocked down back-to-back clutch hits down the stretch to give Alaska the lead with a minute left. Game-sealing free throws gave the Aces the seemingly-over 3-0 series lead, with an 82-75 victory in Lucena.
Game 4: San Miguel keeps season alive with fourth quarter fightback
Then came the fourth game of the series wherein the Aces looked poised to wrap the series up. Alaska mounted a double-digit separation with three minutes left in regulation. The Beermen used balanced contribution from Gabby Espinas, Alex Cabagnot and Arwind Santos to claw their way back. On the other end, Cyrus Baguio swished an impressive triple at the buzzer to extend the game to overtime. However, a 9-0 lockdown by SMB in extension, led by Chris Ross and company, pushed SMB to their first finals win of the series, 110-104.
Game 5: With Fajardo back, SMB stays alive with another OT win
June Mar Fajardo made his finals debut off the bench in Game 5 of this series. However, he had minutes restriction due to the monitoring of his knee. A low-scoring affair yielded another overtime finish, as Calvin Abueva missed a bankshot at the buzzer. For the second straight overtime game, San Miguel took control in extension, this time making an 11-0 start to stun the Alaska crew. Fajardo played during this stretch, and was instrumental on the defensive end. Arwind Santos also broke out of his shooting slump as his 22-point game carried SMB to an 86-73 win.
Game 6: San Miguel staves off another elimination to extend series to distance
Fajardo came off the bench again, but him and Marcio Lassiter were phenomenal in SMB’s Game 6 victory to extend the series for the third straight time. Lassiter’s three-point sniping was key in the fourth, while the Beermen made sure that there would be no Alaska comeback to spoil their ferocious rally. Alaska made a mini-rally late, but resulted to nothing as the Beermen responded to protect their lead. SMB forced a Game 7, with a 100-89 win and a 33-point fourth quarter in Game 6.
Game 7: Beermen completes Beeracle Run to grab history
With momentum taking a full swing towards SMB, the Beermen racked up the points from their main protagonists. They led by as much as 21, 68-47, during the third quarter, as their barrage of points and defensive stops throttled the Aces. Fajardo scored 11 points during the period, while Alaska had no answer in the third quarter berserk of San Miguel. However, Alaska put up their last run in the finals, slicing the lead down to five in the fourth quarter. Fortunately for the Beermen, Chris Ross came up huge with two key layups that salvaged their lead, ultimately grabbing the sweet championship at the end.
Ross was hailed to be the Finals Most Valuable Player, as he was the most consistent Beermen in the seven-game series. In the championship-cementing game, he tallied a conference-high 21 points to lead his squad.
This is SMB’s 22nd championship in their storied franchise, as they still lead the entire PBA for the most championships gathered by a franchise. As for Alaska, they once again lost a series against SMB, whom they also faced in the Philippine Cup last year. (Jan Gonzales)