May 15, 2019

Beermen stretch all-Filipino reign to five years, nail 26th crown in all

And the San Miguel Beer dynasty lives on.

June Mar Fajardo and his teammates overcame an error-strewn first half, flashing the great SMB stuffs in the second half as the Beermen nipped the fierce-fighting Magnolia Pambansang Manok side, 72-71, to stretch their PBA Philippine Cup reign to five years.

Fajardo grabbed a league all-time high 31 rebounds and put in 17 points to make up for nine turnovers while Alex Cabagnot drilled in crucial shots at endgame to highlight an 18-point game as the Beermen beat out their worthy challengers in a well-fought do-or-die setto before a raucous crowd of nearly 13,000 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Cabagnot made the go-ahead basket on a tough fade-away off Paul Lee and the Beermen held the Hotshots scoreless in the last two minutes as San Miguel became the first team in league history to win the all-Filipino tourney five straight times.

And it was their 26th championship in all.

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The Hotshots had their chance to foil the Beermen's bid but Jio Jalalon muffed a shot underneath the basket at endgame.

Thus, the Beermen kept their stranglehold of the all-Filipino plum, and Terrence Romeo and Christian Standhardinger ended their chase for a first PBA championship.

Fajardo completed a personal twin-kill in winning the Finals MVP award in addition to the Best Player of the Conference accolade.

The 6-foot-10 behemoth struggled badly in the first half but imposed himself at winning time, dominating the board to shatter the long-standing 29 rebounds of Marcelo Simbulan of the 7-Up Uncolas.

At endgame, coach Leo Austria went to his tested combination of Fajardo, Cabagnot, Arwind Santos, Chris Ross and Marcio Lassiter who stood their ground against the gritty Hotshots in a seesaw battle at the finish.

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Santos had his own double-double game with 17 points and 11 rebounds while Ross had his own solid all-around numbers with eight rebounds, seven markers and one assist.

Lassiter struggled with a 2-of-7 clip and, worse, lost possession while the Beermen were holding a precarious 72-71 lead with 17 seconds left.

The Beermen, however, pulled a stoppage and salvaged the game where they trailed by as many as 17 points.

"Salamat sa mga players ko, you made me look like a great coach," said Austria.

After allowing the Beermen to score the game's first seven points, the Hotshots cranked up, storming ahead, 24-20, at the end of the opening quarter before stepping it up even more in the second period to take the half at 38-25.

Mind-boggling was the second quarter where the Hotshots opened with double-digit spreads in pouncing on the Beermen's score of turnovers.

The Beermen turned the ball over 11 times and put in just five points, tying a PBA finals record belonging to Alaska Milk.

But there's no stopping the Beermen from stretching their reign in the end.

The scores:

San Miguel 72 - Cabagnot 18, Santos 17, Fajardo 17, Ross 7, Lassiter 5, Romeo 4, Standhardinger 4, Rosser 0, Pessumal 0.

Magnolia 71 - Sangalang 18, Reavis 11, Lee 11, Jalalon 8, Barroca 7, Ramos 6, Melton 5, Dela Rosa 3, Brondial 2, Herndon 0.

Quarters: 20-24, 25-38, 50-58, 72-71.