April 06, 2018

Mighty Beermen extend Philippine Cup reign to fourth straight year

San Miguel Beer dug itself out of a 23-point hole then fought unwaveringly in a double-overtime battle, repulsing Magnolia, 108-99, to successfully defend the PBA Philippine Cup title for a fourth straight season before an electrified crowd of over 10,000 at the MOA Arena in Pasay City Friday night.

June Mar Fajardo, Chris Ross and Arwind Santos were the lead lights in their amazing Game Five triumph to complete an all-Filipino conference four-peat.

Fajardo erupted for 42 points and 20 rebounds in the first 40-20 game in PBA playoffs in two years, Ross delivered a near quadruple-double job with 13 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists and eight steals while Santos came through with his own double-double job with 23 markers and 11 boards.

The three made the big difference as San Miguel withstood Magnolia's go-for-broke stand and became the first team to rule the league's premier conference four in a row since Crispa clinched its own four-peat in 1984.

With its eighth Philippine Cup crown in all, San Miguel enriched its overall collection with 25.

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"It's the pride and attitude of our players. Ayaw nilang matalo. Hindi sila basta-basta bibigay sa kahit anong sitwasyon," said San Miguel coach Leo Austria.

"It's not about the four-peat. It's really the pride to win every game they play," Austria added.

"Masarap manalo ng championship. Hindi kami magsasawa to be the champ," said Fajardo.

Stepping up big time in the last game of the season, Fajardo scored a twinkill of sort in being the winner of the Best Player of the Conference and the Cignal Finals MVP honors.

He poured in 14 points in the fourth quarter then added four in the first overtime and eight in the second OT.

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The Cebuano gentle giant himself got SMB into the game in presiding over a key 13-to-nothing roll from 66-82 count before Santos drained a big key to force overtime at 86-all.

In the first OT, Fajardo and Santos themselves made the huge shots as they sent the game into a second extra period at 94-all. Still with fresh legs in the second OT, the Beermen got to a 7-0 start and eventually cruised to the victory to wild cheers from their throng of fans.

Magnolia was a spent force at the finish, losing steam and energy after dictating the tempo most of the regulation play on a determined bid to delay San Miguel's title quest.

The Hotshots were still very much in control at 82-66 with 7:53 to go before going scoreless in the next five minutes of the game.

Paul Lee led their tough stand but scored only two points after the third quarter. He ran into a maze of errors in the crunch, committing seven in all.

Lee went 4-of-4 from the arc while Mark Barroca and Bam Gamalinda combined for 3-of-5 three-pointers to highlight Magnolia's explosive first half.

Lee, Barroca, Rome dela Rosa, Rafi Reavis and Ian Sangalang formed the starting unit that gave the Hotshots an early double-digit spread at 15-4, and their reserves helped keep the fire as Magnolia enjoyed a 16-point spread, 53-37, at the turn.

The Hotshots took their 23-point spread at 71-43 before slowly fading away.

The Beermen just won't be denied in the end. (SB)