San Miguel Beer quenches title thirst by beating Alaska in drama-filled Game Seven
SMB stars Arwind Santos and June Mar Fajardo savor the championship. Jaime Campos

SAN Miguel Beer survived yet another Alaska comeback on Wednesday night, pulling off an 80-78 win in a dramatic Game Seven to end a three-year PBA title drought before a mammoth crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Arwind Santos hit a big three-pointer in a thrilling endgame to pump life back into the Beermen, who let a 23-point first-half lead disappear and found themselves trailing the Aces by six, 68-74, inside the final five minutes.

Rejuvenated, the Beermen outfought the Aces amid countless twists and turns to wrap up the Philippine Cup best-of-seven series, 4-3, and win their first league championship since the 2011 Governors Cup.

More importantly, the Beermen, the only remaining pioneer team in the 40-year-old league, won their first all-Filipino championship since 2001.

Santos finished with 22 points and hit the most important basket in a 12-4 windup that rescued a Beermen team that wasted similar big leads in Games One (22 points), Four (23 points) and Six (14).

"Kamay ng Diyos 'yun," Santos said of the clutch three-pointer, echoing the 'Hand of God' comment of football great Diego Maradona in Argentina's controversial win over England in the 1986 World Cup.

He was later named the PBA Press Corps-Petron Sprint 4T Finals MVP.

That three-pointer gave SMB back the lead, 79-78, in a game that took another strange turn when Ronald Tubid called a timeout the Beermen no longer had after a wild rebound scramble.

Fortunately for the Beermen, Dondon Hontiveros missed the technical free throw - the costliest of 14 misses from the foul line by the Uytengsu franchise, wasting an opportunity to cut into SMB's 80-78 lead.

Alaska got another shot at turning the match around with 2.8 seconds left when Calvin Abueva forced June Mar Fajardo to a jump ball and later won the jump over the 6-10 SMB big man.

But JV Casio missed a hurried three-point try as the final buzzer sounded to start off the celebration for the Beermen before almost 23,000 fans - the biggest crowd to watch a game since the season opener at the Philippine Arena.

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“For me, this (championship) is unbelievable. At kung may matigas ang ulo, sila (Alaska Aces) ang may pinaka-matigas ang ulo,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria after winning his first-ever PBA career championship.

“We’re fortunate because in the endgame, we were able to recover from their big rallies. And I appreciate my players because they did not give up, especially Arwind and June Mar na sinasabi nila sa akin, ‘Coach, this is ours,’” the 56-year-old coach added.

Fajardo, the Philippine Cup Best Player of the Conference, won his first career championship after compiling 21 points and 25 boards, in the process becoming the first player tyo register a 20-20 output in a PBA Finals.

The scores:

San Miguel 80 - Santos 22, Fajardo 21, Tubid 12, Lutz 10, Cabagnot 10, Lassiter 5, Maierhofer 0, Ross 0, Kramer 0, Omolon 0, Pascual 0, Fortuna 0, Semerad 0, Chua 0.

Alaska 78 - Abueva 23, Thoss 15, Baguio 11, Casio 7, Banchero 6, Manuel 4, Hontiveros 4, Jazul 4, Exciminiano 2, Menk 2, Eman 0, Dela Rosa 0, Dela Cruz 0, Espinas 0.

Quartercores: 21-12, 48-27, 62-59, 80-78

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