NOT THAT they needed further proof of their winning legacy in the All-Filipino conference of the Philippine Basketball Association but the San Miguel Beermen did exactly that after claiming a fifth straight Philippine Cup title on Wednesday night.
Already the winningest team in Asia’s first play-for-pay league and the franchise with the most All-Filipino titles entering the just-concluded tournament, the Beermen added another cap under their feather with PBA title number 26 and Philippine Cup crown number nine after outlasting the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok in their best-of-seven finals series that went the full route.
But the latest conquest did not come easy for San Miguel, which had to dig deep all series long and, in particular, in Game Seven two days ago where they had their struggles in the opening half and barely survived in the end.
Trailed by as much as 17 points at one point in the game, the Beermen turned to good old grit and determination to fight their way back for the hard-earned 72-71 victory that afforded them to hoist another championship trophy.
Veteran Alex Cabagnot led San Miguel with 18 points, a big chunk of which coming in the second half where they made their way back.
Reigning league most valuable player June Mar Fajardo had his struggles but still wound up with huge numbers of 18 points and 31 rebounds.
Arwind Santos, the lone bright spot for the Beermen in the early goings of Game Seven, also had 17 points to go along with 11 boards.
Winning their fifth straight All-Filipino title, the significance of it is not lost to the San Miguel players, underscoring that it is a product of a collective effort on their part.
“Definitely it’s a legacy win which is a result of a lot of hard work, dedication and patience by the entire team. It was a tough series with Magnolia but we did it,” said Marcio Lassister, who is with the team for all of the five straight Philippine Cup titles.
For Messrs. Cabagnot and Fajardo, it was in not giving up that they were able to stretch their stranglehold on the All-Filipino title, something they are very proud of.
“It was extremely difficult. We went back-and forth and Magnolia put up a tough fight. Our camaraderie did it for us. We won it collectively as a group. We are just thankful,” said Mr. Cabagnot, named player of the game in the sudden death.
“Credit to my teammates for not giving up. Even if we were down we never lost hope and kept fighting,” Mr. Fajardo, for his part, said.
Incidentally, for averaging 22.9 points, 19.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for the entire seven games, Mr. Fajardo was adjudged finals MVP.
Meanwhile, the PBA will have a short turnaround as it is set to begin the midseason tournament Commissioner’s Cup on Sunday, May 19.
An import-laden conference, the tournament will kick off with the Blackwater Elite taking on the Meralco Bolts in the 4:30 p.m. game while the Alaska Aces play the Columbian Dyip at 6:45 p.m. Venue is the Mall of Asia Arena. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo