SAN Miguel Beer delivered the knockout punch that everyone was waiting for from Manny Pacquiao earlier in the day, outclassing TNT KaTropa on Sunday night to capture a PBA Commissioner’s Cup title that had eluded the squad for more than a decade.
The Beermen connected on the killer blows in Game Six of the Finals, turning what was expected to be a dogfight into a walk in the park on the way to a 115-91 victory that sent multicolored balloons and confetti raining down from the rafters of the packed Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Alex Cabagnot registered a triple-double of 19 points, 12 boards, and 11 assists on top of three steals that capped a spectacular showing in the title series on the way to earning PBA Press Corps-Cignal Finals MVP honors after falling short in the Best Player of the Conference race.
The Beermen also turned to a perfect fit of an import in Charles Rhodes, who anchored their run throughout the conference, tallying 30 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, and three assists in the series clincher.
Unlike Pacquiao who fans haven’t seen knock out a foe since Miguel Cotto in 2009, the Beermen thus ended a 16-year title drought in midseason tournaments, which took a break from 2004 to 2010, as they captured their fifth championship in eight conferences and 24th overall.
More importantly, the Beermen moved one championship away from completing their ambitious grand slam bid, their second in team history since the 1989 season.
“My players really wanted to win,” SMB coach Leo Austria said. “This game is really fantastic for them. I’ve been waiting for this to happen and it happened in the sixth game…I’m grateful and really blessed to have the kind of players that I have.”
“I’d like to congratulate coach Nash Racela and the rest of TNT for bringing out the best in us,” he added.
The planets definitely aligned for the Beermen on a gloomy night, hours after Pacquiao suffered an upset loss to Australian Jeff Horn in the opponent’s turf.
Finals basketball was at its finest and tight early on when Semerad twins turned opponents David and Semerad refused to give an inch to each other in a battle for the loose ball, before the Beermen went on a run late in the first quarter and never looked back.
Marcio Lassiter saved his best for last, firing 24 points built around five treys after struggling from afar early in the series, on top of five boards, four assists, and one steal without committing a single turnover in almost 45 minutes of play.
Arwind Santos sustained his splendid showing off the bench, tallying 17 points – all but two in the first half where he sparked the early surge – on top of seven caroms, two blocks, two steals, and one assist in 32 minutes.
Chris Ross went back to deferring to his teammates as the Best Player of the Conference orchestrated the offense with aplomb and still finished with 14 points, seven boards, three assists, three steals, and one block in 41 minutes.
Nearly the entire core was firing on all cylinders for the Beermen, who led by as many as 29 points, that June Mar Fajardo didn’t have to do the heavy-lifting, having the luxury of playing less than 14 minutes and contributing just two points on three attempts, four rebounds, and two assists.
Troy Rosario led the Texters with 21 points and five boards in 26 minutes, while Roger Pogoy added 16 points two boards, two assists, and one steal that went for naught for the Texters.
Jayson Castro, though, was held to just 13 points on 13 attempts and committed six turnovers in 29 minutes for the Texters who drew 15 points and six boards in 22 minutes from import Joshua Smith.
SMB 115 – Rhodes 30, Lassiter 24, Cabagnot 19, Santos 17, Ross 14, Espinas 5, Semerad 4, Fajardo 2, De Ocampo 0, Heruela 0, McCarthy 0, Van Opstal 0, Agovida 0
TNT 91 – Rosario 21, Pogoy 16, Smith 15, Castro 13, De Ocampo 7, Garcia 7, Williams 4, Tautuaa 4, Rosales 2, Semerad 2, Reyes 0
Quarterscores: 37-26, 62-42, 94-69, 115-91