San Miguel On Track for a Record 5th Straight All-Filipino Crown

The upstart Phoenix Fuel Masters were clearly getting to the high-and-mighty all-star team that was the San Miguel Beermen. They started to get under the skin of the Beermen during the regular round-robin series by squeezing out a 96-93 upset win, breaking the Beermen’s dream of acquiring a twice-to-beat privilege in the first round of the playoffs.

But things were clearly different during their best-of-seven semifinal series, as San Miguel switched on their playoff mode, and swaggered and trash-talked their way to another 4-1 precision lesson-of-a-beating.

For a clearer view, just click on the pictures.

The defending champs were certainly head-and-shoulders above the Fuel Masters. They were far more talented, with arguably the league’s top player in Jun Mar Fajardo, plus 7 other players in the national pool, as opposed to only 2 from the Fuel Masters. They were also taller, with 5 players 6’6” and above, while Phoenix only had Justin Chua at 6’6”. They were also far more experienced, having been through playoff wars as regularly as night follows day. In contrast, this was the first time for Phoenix to reach the semifinals in their brief stint with the PBA.

Phoenix tried to scratch and claw their way into contention with its vaunted hard defense and intensity. But San Miguel had answers for everything Phoenix could throw at them, including the kitchen sink. Phoenix was like the pesky Patrick Beverley to an amused but oversized Kevin Durant. They were the Los Angeles Clippers to San Mig’s Golden State Warriors. They were the puny David to the Beermen’s hulking Goliath. Only this time, it was Goliath’s turn to crush the doggedly-determined David.

For a clearer view, just click on the pictures.

Phoenix tried employing a snappy double-teaming D on the man-mountain Jun Mar. The Beermen swung the ball fast to the weak side. Phoenix tried a collapsing zone D to swarm the twin towers of Fajardo and Christian Standhardinger. The Beermen’s elegant 3-pointers made them pay dearly for it. Phoenix tried to play tough, honest man D. San Mig’s frisky trio of Chris Ross, Terrence Romeo and Alex Cabagnot would space out the defense and blow past their guards. For every king-size move Phoenix tried to deal, San Mig would have an ace up their sleeve.

Jun Mar was a big threat in the shaded lane, dwarfing the likes of Chua and Doug Kramer. This meant Phoenix would have to allot 2 players to contain him. Christian provided a great back-up for Jun Mar. Arwind Santos shone bright with his playoff smarts, ultimately neutralizing the menacing Jason Perkins. Cabagnot’s mind games would cause the expulsion of Alex Mallari in the pivotal 4th game, paving the way to Romeo’s scoring explosion in the game’s 2nd half. And then there was Marcio Lassiter, who hounded Matthew Wright in the early going, aside from providing deadly perimeter fire. Finally, San Mig’s R&R duo of Ross and Romeo would blow everyone away with their spunk and speed.

For a clearer view, just click on the pictures.

Also a big revelation in the series was the emergence of Matt Ganuelas Rosser, Von Pessumal and the menacing Kelly Nabong. Matt limited Matthew Wright’s offense in the 4th and 5th games. He was a great defensive stopper, aside from being an offensive threat whose dunks electrified the San Mig crowd. Von was a steady reliever, making sure the offense and defense did not miss a beat when part of the guard core of Cabagnot and the R&R duo were on rest and recreation. Kelly matched Calvin Abueva’s physicality with his own, to the delight of the San Mig faithful. In short, the Beermen’s reserve force provided consistency, depth and character to an already stacked line-up. They too are worthy of high praises.

But we must also give credit to the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters. They did not have the most skilled guys in the league. They were short on size and shooting skills; but they showed plenty of grit in grinding out a respectable series against a clearly-dominant San Mig team. And no one can hate such a worthy over-achieving underdog for that. Kudos to Calvin, Matt, Jason and the rest. But most especially, my salute goes to coach Louie Alas for elevating this team from the minors to the big leagues.

For a clearer view, just click on the pictures.

The 2019 PBA All-Filipino Conference Finals is set to start this week. It will be a well-rested San Mig team against the survivor of Game 7 of the epic Rain or Shine vs Magnolia clash for glory this Sunday. I said it before, I’ll say it again. The winner of the San Mig – Phoenix slugfest will win it all. Since San Mig has clinched it, that means I have San Miguel to win – regardless of who they face in the finals.

Take your pick, folks. And kudos to the San Miguel Beermen for reaching a new milestone in this most prestigious of PBA campaigns, the All-Filipino Conference.

For a clearer view, just click on the pictures.

All pictures courtesy of pba.ph

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