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PBA Governors Cup Finals: SMB one away

Alaska's Sonny Thoss and San Miguel Beer's Junmar Fajardo battle for the rebound in this bit of action of Game 3 of the PBA Governors' Cup Finals held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, July 15, 2015. Photo by Ernie U. Sarmiento

Beermen go up 3-0 against Alaska

Unprecedented history, not just San Miguel Beer, now stands in the way of the Alaska Aces and a miracle comeback.

Using a 10-0 run to take control in the fourth quarter, the Beermen shoved the Aces into unchartered waters last night, taking Game 3 of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals, 96-89, and moving within a win of sweeping their 21st championship overall and second in the 40th season.

Game 4 of the best-of-7 series is at 7 p.m. tomorrow after the 5 p.m. Leo Awards where the Most Valuable Player will be announced, along with other season awardees.

Six months after beating Alaska in Game 7 of the Philippine Cup championship on a dagger 3-point shot by Arwind Santos, SMB moved into position to claim a more emphatic though nowhere less grueling title series against the Aces.

No PBA team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit to win the championship although 11 have tried. Now the Aces step into the plate against a deadly fastball pitcher of an opponent that blew them away by 30 points in Game 1 and then shattered their comeback image in the next two games.

Four of those previous 11 3-0 teams went on to sweep the series. Six needed five games, and one, Gordon Gin, was dragged to a Game 6 by Alaska in the 1997 Commissioner’s Cup finals.

Their fate is probably known to them, but the Aces nonetheless are hell-bent on defying it.

“There has to be somebody to first walk on the moon, somebody to do something first,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton when asked whether 0-3 is the end of the road for the Aces’ championship dream.

Defiant in the face of adversity, Compton added: “We’ll be there playing. San Miguel will have to earn it.”

Leo Austria, his SMB counterpart and former coach during their Philippine Basketball League days, is aware the Aces will not be inclined to serve the crown on a silver platter.

Austria speaks from bitter experience.

“I was there when Rudy Distrito made that shot,” said Austria, referring to the former Ginebra San Miguel guard’s unforgettable game-winner in Game 7 of the 1991 First Conference championship that allowed the Kings to complete a resurgence from a 1-3 deficit against Shell Rimula X in the finals.

“I tried to go after Rudy to defend the shot but I was too late,” Austria said. “And I haven’t forgotten. That’s why I always remind my players to treat every game as a championship because, mathematically, it’s still possible for them to come back.”

The Beermen have – at the expense of the Aces, who waltzed into the series with commanding victories in the quarterfinals and the semis and a five-day rest only to run into an extremely talented team that went through hell after the elimination round and only belatedly rediscovered its full potential in the finals.

Arizona Reid, passed over for the Best Import award in favor of Alaska’s Romeo Travis, kept getting better. He had 31 points in Game 1, 37 in Game 2 and 41 last night, 11 coming in the last 12 minutes, including a triple to cap a 10-0 run as SMB rallied from an 85-81 disadvantage with 8 minutes left to reprise its 13-0 windup in the second game.

Junemar Fajardo had 14 points and 19 rebounds to complement Reid’s 12 board work and Alex Cabagnot’s 13 points. Travis had 17 points for the Aces but was scoreless in the fourth quarter.

SAN MIGUEL 96 – Reid 41, Fajardo 14, Cabagnot 13, Lassiter 8, Santos 8, Espinas 6, Lutz 2, Tubid 2, Semerad 2, Ross 0.

ALASKA 89 – Travis 17, Abueva 15, Thoss 12, Banchero 8, Casio 7, Manuel 6, Dela Rosa 6, Baguio 5, Exciminiano 4, Menk 4, Hontiveros 3, Jazul 2, Dela Cruz 0.

Quarters: 25-21, 48-52, 76-77, 96-89