SAN Miguel fulfilled its date with destiny on Wednesday night, holding off a last stand by Alaska in the fourth quarter to pull off a 96-89 victory in Game 7 of the Philippine Cup Finals and complete the greatest comeback in PBA history.
A crowd of 23,616 fans, the biggest ever to watch a PBA game at the Mall of Asia Arena, stood witness to history as the Beermen completed the first comeback from a 0-3 deficit in a best-of-seven series in the 41 years of Asia's first pro league - a feat that has yet to be done, even in the NBA.
To do that, the Beermen had to compose themselves in the wake of a bizarre move by Alaska to open Game 7 with three successive timeouts then had to regroup after the Aces cut down a 21-point deficit to five behind a three-guard set-up of JVee Casio, Chris Banchero and Ping Exciminiano.
Chris Ross, not really known as an outside threat, hit four three-pointers in the game. He also scored four points in a 6-0 counter-attack that restored order for the Beermen, 82-72, and set off the celebration on SMB's end of the stands.
"I said before that a miracle is just around the corner, and now it happened," said SMB coach Leo Austria after the flagship of the SMC organization won a second straight crown, third in the last four conferences and 22nd overall to solidify its status as the league’s most successful squad.
More significantly, the Beermen achieved a comeback that was previously considered improbable, surpassing Ginebra's rally from 1-3 down against Shell in 1991 as the greatest in league history.
“Both teams deserved to win, but we were just luckier than them,” Austria said addressing the crowd.
Ross finished with a game-high-tying 21 points, one point shy of his career-high, on the way to be named the Cignal-PBA Press Corps Finals MVP.
Alaska tried to catch SMB off guard early by burning three quick timeouts and subbing in their old reliables for surprise starters Rome dela Rosa and Sam Eman, but the ploy hardly seemed to work as they fell behind most of the game.
The Aces, however, refused to go down without a fight, fighting back from 21 points down to trim it to just 75-70 after a run led by Chris Banchero early in the fourth quarter.
But the Aces – like they did in the last three games – once again failed to show the killer’s instinct anew as they came up short.