by Jonas Terrado
By the skin of their teeth, the San Miguel Beermen captured their fifth straight PBA Philippine Cup championship last night, leaving the Magnolia Hotshots with a bitter taste in the mouth after coming so close to dethroning the conference’s most dominant force.
SMB narrowly claimed the unprecedented, 72-71, before a roaring crowd of over 12,000 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Alex Cabagnot hit the decisive basket with 57 seconds remaining — a baseline fallaway over Paul Lee — while PBA Press Corps-Honda Finals MVP June Mar Fajardo broke the league’s longest standing record with 31 rebounds to extend the Beermen’s reign in the PBA’s most prestigious tournament.
The Beermen survived the siege after falling behind 43-26 early in the third quarter as Fajardo overcame fatigue, Cabagnot broke out of an inconsistent series and Arwind Santos delivered on both ends to lead the comeback.
Cabagnot finished with 18 points, including the go-ahead jumper late in the fourth which saw seven lead changes.
Magnolia tried to reclaim the driver’s seat but Jio Jalalon forced a running shot on the next play.
Marcio Lassiter gave SMB and its supporters a scare when he turned the ball over in front of the Beermen bench with 17 seconds left, giving Magnolia another opportunity to steal the game and the Jun Bernardino Perpetual Trophy.
Lee drove to the lane against two defenders before dropping it off to Jalalon for a potential go-ahead basket. But Jalalon lost the ball and Fajardo grabbed the rebound before being fouled by Rafi Reavis, 4.0 ticks left.
Fajardo missed both free throws and Lee’s desperate heave went nowhere as time expired, setting off wild celebration by San Miguel.
Fajardo’s rebound output broke the old mark of 29 set by Marcelo Simbulan of the 7-Up Uncolas in the league’s inaugural season in 1975.
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.