Manila, Philippines – The stage is finally set and the powerhouse San Miguel Beermen will be facing formidable foes in the Alaska Aces.
The two teams have met many times before and the upcoming PBA Finals is expected to be something to watch.
On paper, the Beermen do seem to have the edge due to a superior lineup led by vastly improved June Mar Fajardo who has become the pillar of strength for coach Leo Austria and his boys.
This marks the first time the Beermen and the Aces will be facing off since the 2010 PBA Fiesta Cup.
Tim Cone was still the head coach for the Aces that year while the Beermen were still under the tutelage of then head coach Siot Tanquincen. The Aces won over the Beermen in six games.
But as far as the Philippine Cup is concerned, this will be their first after almost 17 years. Again, the Aces came out on top in seven games over a Ron Jacobs-mentored SMB quintet. It was the Alaska franchise’s 8th title overall.
With two teams now under new coaches, it should be interesting to see on who would be getting his first PBA title. Can Leo Austria finally lead the Beermen to a much coveted PBA title or will Alex Compton help Alaska continue its mastery over the Beermen in an All Filipino conference?
Leo Austria and Alex Compton are no strangers to each other. Both were part of the coaching reigns of the Welcoat Dragons (now Rain or Shine) from 2006-08.
Austria is best known for leading the Beermen to the Asean Basketball League crown in 2013. He would later on be taken in by San Miguel (then known as Petron) before being released briefly. After a few months, Austria would be recalled to become the head coach of San Miguel which has so far proven to be a wise decision.
Alex Compton on the other hand has successfully molded the Aces into a team that can pull the rug from any team. Compton has managed to control Calvin Abueva this conference and the man many refer to as “the Beast” has been a key figure in energizing the team.
Experience-wise, the edge obviously goes to Austria. However if you consider the motivation factor, Compton may have the edge. The Beermen have a more star-studded lineup but the Aces roster is no pushover with its mix of stars and role players.
In the battle of wits, it will boil down to who can motivate and push their players to perform at another level. And apparently, that edge would be given to Compton.
Without blinking, you know that the Beermen have the superior starting lineup. With June Mar makes the rotation pretty much unpredictable.
On the other end, only a few have had their bright moments for coach Austria. Ronald Tubid, Rico Maierhofer, Jeric Fortuna, Doug Kramer and Chris Ross could have done their share but not as much as the rotation that the Aces have.
Advantage: Alaska Aces
The Beermen are slightly favored on paper but it may all depend on how conditioned the starters are. With the bench department obviously favoring the Aces, the starters are expected to play longer minutes if the Beermen want to fend off an expected Alaska rampage.
Not only that, the Beermen need to find a way to keep Abueva and the other big out of the shaded lane. Alaska thrive on hustle and second chance points so the Beermen must find a way to secure the rebounds better even if they have a decided height advantage.
For the Aces, expect a running game that will be ignited by their stingy defense and press. They did show glimpses of that against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and the same is expected once they square off against the Beermen in the finals.
As long as the Aces continue to thrive on their energy, the Wilfred Uytengsu-owned ballclub has a fair shot of nabbing the title over the seemingly talent-laiden San Miguel Beermen.
Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and either Chris Lutz, the Beermen boast of a starting five that carries a lot of firepower.
Fajardo is expected to dominate inside the paint and kick out to the shooters when necessary. His 6-foot-11 frame renders matchup problems hence the Aces are expected to gang up on the Cebuano native.
For the Aces, there is the rising Calvin Abueva, the Aces have the sweet shooting JV Casio, high-flyer Cyrus Baguio, the “Boss” Sonny Thoss and the Cebuano Hotshot Dondon Hontiveros. Alternatively, the Aces may field in Vic Manuel or the rejuvenated Erik Menk.
What the Aces lack inside is somehow negated by the energy that Abueva inserts when he is on the floor. Despite standing only 6’2, Abueva has somehow been able to get his share of rebound and points inside the paint.
Advantage: San Miguel Beermen
As far as the supporting cast is concerned, the edge seems to be on the side of the Aces.
The Aces lineup is no pushover where the team seems to be balanced all the way to their bench players. Vic Manuel, Erik Menk, Ping Excimiano and rookie Chris Banchero can put in quality minutes when fielded by coach Compton.