SUCCESS always comes with adversity and San Miguel Beer overcame its latest yet to sustain the winning tradition.
The Beermen showed the stuff champions are made of, pulling off a comeback to remember to outlast Magnolia, 108-99, in double overtime on Friday night and reassert their dominance in the PBA’s all-Filipino conference.
The defending champions climbed out of a deep 23-point hole in regulation, before shrugging off a gritty stand by the Hotshots in the two extra sessions in Game Five of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals to close out the series in five games.
June Mar Fajardo showed why he’s the four-time reigning MVP and record-holding six-time Best Player of the Conference, carrying the Beermen on his back when he counted upon as he churned out 42 points and 20 rebounds in over 53 minutes.
Saving his best for last allowed Fajardo to be named the PBA Press Corps-Cignal Finals MVP after averaging 24.4 points, 16.2 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks in the series.
Arwind Santos made it possible, knocking down the dagger three-pointer that forced the first extra session to the delight of the SMB gallery that formed part of over 10,000 fans in attendance at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“I’m overwhelmed,” SMB coach Leo Austria said in the post-game conference. “I thought this series would be extended, but I have to give credit to the players. But this was because of the experience we have. We have the heart of the champion – na hindi basta-basta magpapatalo.”
“I give credit to coach Chito (Victolero), they had a good game plan,” he added. “I know from the start, they are really a contender. Mabuti na lang, yung pride nag-prevail sa mga players ko, ayaw nila magpatalo.”
The Beermen captured their sixth championship in 10 conferences to cement their status as the most dominant team in the league this decade, notching a league-best 25th title overall.
Fajardo paved the way for their sustained success as he scattered 14 of his playoff career-high offensive output in the fourth quarter, scored the putback off his own miss that forged the second extra session, where he then added eight more points to put on the finishing touches for the Beermen
Chris Ross flirted with an unprecedented quadruple-double of 13 points, 11 boards, 11 assists, and eight steals. That all-around performance made up for a dismal 3-of-15 shooting from the field, although he drained the three-pointer from the right wing that proved to be the dagger, giving them a 99-94 lead with three minutes and 37 seconds left in the second OT.
Santos finished with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including three triples, 11 boards, four blocks, and two assists in 53 minutes.
The Hotshots looked eager to extend the best-of-seven series to a Game Six as they established a 71-48 cushion in the third quarter, before letting the Beermen mount on a furious fightback.
Magnolia, though, still had a chance to win in regulation as they protected a 86-81 lead following an Ian Sangalang midrage jumper with a little over a minute left, before Fajardo retaliated with a short stab then Santos came through with his trey to add another five minutes on the clock.
Paul Lee led the Hotshots with 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 41 minutes, but was held scoreless in the two extra periods, and committed seven turnovers overall, including a costly one in the first OT.
SMB 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
Quarterscores: 19-21, 37-53, 60-74, 86-86, 94-94, 108-99