PBA title series goes to another Game Seven

Posted on January 20, 2015

FOR THE 23rd time in Philippine Basketball Association history a finals series will go into a deciding Game Seven. This, as the Alaska Aces refused to back down in their Philippine Cup championship duel with the San Miguel Beermen, beating the latter, 87-76, in Game Six to force a sudden death.

Players of San Miguel Beer and Alaska are determined to win the elusive all-Filipino championship and they will gear up for battle on Wednesday’s do or die Game 7
Finding anew the balance in their attack that was conspicuously missing in Games Four and Five that relegated them to the raw side each time, the Aces made sure that in Game Six they brought their A-game to reduce the series to one game to decide it all.

In last Sunday’s game, Alaska’s thrust was multipronged with everybody fielded in by coach Alex Compton contributing and making a difference.

Veteran gunner Dondon Hontiveros continued with his steady shooting as he topscored for the Aces with 18 markers while frontline stalwarts Sonny Thoss and Vic Manuel combined for 25 points.

Fireball forward Calvin Abueva, who has been leading the charge for his team for the most part in this series, had it pedestrian for his standards in Game Six but guards Cyrus Baguio and JVee Casio picked up the slack for their struggling teammate as they took over at various stretches of the game.

Point guard Mr. Casio, particularly, came up big as he pumped in nine points, most of which coming in crucial stages, apart from orchestrating the Aces’ offensive setup to a T. The former De La Salle University stalwart was left scoreless in the previous two games.

Defensively Alaska also turned it up, tempering an explosive San Miguel offense with much effectivity.

While in the opening period the Beermen had their way, scoring 23 points, the Aces made sure in the succeeding quarters that things did not go out of hand en route to forcing San Miguel to a low 76-point output.

League most valuable player and best player of the conference awardee June Mar Fajardo was limited by the Alaska defense to just nine points on two-of-seven shooting which rendered the Gilas Pilipinas big man practically a non-factor throughout the game.

After the match, Coach Compton acknowledged that work still needs to be done despite the crucial Game Six win, but he also sounded confident of their chances in their do-or-die game, saying “We have them (Beermen) where we want them.”

He also gave praise to his wards’ efforts to bounce back and recover every time they are forced against the wall.

No player seeing action in the ongoing PBA Philippine Cup finals series between Alaska Aces and San Miguel Beermen has won an all-Filipino championship.

No one except Eric Menk, the 40-year-old veteran center playing for Alaska.

Mr. Menk won the Philippine Cup crown during his MVP season in 2004-05 while playing for the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings and the grizzled old timer is not surprised why teams and players of both camps are so intense disputing this prestigious title.

“It’s the most prestigious championship. Everyone wants to be remembered as a champion, particularly the all-Filipino,” Mr. Menk told BusinessWorld.

Alaska Aces has not won an all-Filipino since 2000 when the team was still bannered by Johnny Abarrientos, Jojo Lastimosa, Kenneth Duremdes, Poch Juinio and Bong Hawkins among others.

San Miguel Beermen’s last all-Filipino championship came in 2001 when the team was still being coached by Jong Uichico, now the head mentor of the Talk ’N Text Tropang Texters.

Since then, the Beermen changed coaches like they were changing clothes -- tapping in Chot Reyes, Siot Tanquingcen, Ato Agustin, Olsen Racela, Gee Abanilla, Biboy Ravanes and now, Leo Austria.

In between those coaching changes were the unique set ups in the coaching staff.

While Mr. Tanquingcen was head coach -- about five years ago -- management implemented an On The Job training scheme, allowing Mr. Agustin and Mr. Abanilla at one turn to call the shots even when the head coach was still on the bench.

Then, the team also employed foreign bench tacticians to aid local coaches.

Rajko Toroman, former coach of SMART-Gilas Pilipinas, also joined the squad to aid Mr. Racela. Todd Purves was also tapped to help out Mr. Ravanes. These foreign mentors were like de facto coaches.

There are a lot of firsts at stake when Game Seven of the finals rolls off tomorrow and for Arwind Santos, who will be playing in his fourth seventh game for the championship, it will be a battle of which team will have a bigger heart, tougher and smarter.

The last time a PBA finals series was stretched to a full seven games was in the 2012-13 Governors’ Cup finals where San Mig Coffee beat Petron.

Game Seven of the PBA Philippine Cup finals is set for tomorrow at the Smart Araneta Coliseum at 7 p.m. -- Michael Angelo S. Murillo and Rey Joble