For a fleeting moment in Game 4, a reprieve seemed imminent for the Alaska Aces as they sought to avert a grim end in the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals. Then Arizona Reid reeled them back in.
And when the Aces tried to wring away free, Junemar Fajardo returned from a flagrant one foul breather and calmly lowered the boom .
San Miguel rallied from 14 points down in the second quarter behind a torrent of 3-pointers from Reid to complete a 4-0 sweep of the Aces, 91-81, last night before a crowd of 14,246 that marveled as the Beermen captured their 21st title overall in joining four other teams in the elite circle of masterful champions.
The Beermen crowned themselves in the company of Northern Consolidated, Swift, Purefoods and Talk ‘N Text as 4-0 champions in repeating over the Aces whom they beat in seven games in the Philippine Cup finals early this season.
It was mission accomplished for Reid, who finally landed a championship after five fruitless trips as an import, pouring 33 points, including six 3-pointers, four coming in the third quarter where he torched the Aces for 16 points as SMB used an 11-0 run in a roaring comeback from 49-37 after two quarters to 58-57 on a Reid triple with 4:17 left.
“I finally got one; it took me four years but it’s a great feeling,” said the dreadlocked Reid. “I’d like to thank my teammates. Without them I wouldn’t have made it.”
For sure, Reid was not without support.
Fajardo, named Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive year, added 19 points with 21 monster rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks, numbers that allowed the 6-foot-10 former University of Cebu center to snare the PBA Press Corps-Holcim Cement Finals MVP plaque.
Marcio Lassiter had 9 of his 12 points in the third, while Gabby Espinas, the former Alaska player, contributed 8 points while taking on Alaska import Romeo Travis in backing up Fajardo and Reid defensively. Arwind Santos, the hero of SMB’s Game 7 victory over Alaska two conference championships ago, had a quiet 6 points but grabbed 12 rebounds while playmaker Alex Cabagnot issued 6 assists to complement his 5 points.
Leo Austria remained in a state of disbelief over the short route SMB took to reach their second title with him aboard.
“I really can’t understand how we were able to sweep Alaska because they are a strong team and the barometer for us,” he said. “I guess we were just luckier after working so hard to get better. The character of the players just showed.”
The Aces were still in the game even after Reid’s explosion and Lassiter’s 3-pointer to end the third with SMB on top, 70-65.
But Fajardo took over with a dominant effort in the fourth quarter, unloading 10 points with his overpowering inside game, sending SMB to its biggest lead in championship, 81-65, and taking the fight out of the bewildered Aces.
A 13-2 run in the second quarter keyed the Aces’ first half break to lead 49-37 after 24 minutes, with Romeo Travis asserting himself for 11 points and Calvin Abueva shrugging off a heavily-taped swollen left thumb to match their import’s output.
Trailing, 31-28 after Gabby Espinas hit three straight baskets, the Aces came back with a 9-0 run behind Travis and Abueva before Arizona Reid broke the streak. Then, after Junemar Fajardo was called for flagrant 1 foul and sat out three minutes, Alaska added 4 more points to open a 41-33 advantage.
The Aces closed the second period with an 8-2 run, looking in good form in their bid to stretch the series.
SAN MIGUEL 91 – Reid 33, Fajardo 19, Lassiter 12, Espinas 8, Santos 6, Cabagnot 5, Ross 3, Lutz 2, Tubid 0.
ALASKA 81 – Abueva 22, Travis 15, Thoss 13, Baguio 7, Exciminiano 7, Casio 5, Menk 4, Banchero 3, Jazul 3, Dela Rosa 2, Manuel 0, Hontiveros 0.
Quarters: 18-17, 37-49, 70-65, 91-81