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Beermen gun for third All-Filipino crown

Game on Nov. 20
(Smart Araneta)
4 p.m. – Opening Ceremony
6:15 p.m. – San Miguel vs Star

After tearing down the walls of an impregnable PBA history last season by becoming the first ballclub to win a championship from 0-3 down in the finals, the San Miguel Beermen are training their guns on yet another milestone.

As reigning back-to-back PBA Philippine Cup champions, the Beermen open defense of their title on Nov. 20 against the Star Hotshots and Paul Lee at the Smart Araneta Coliseum with the end goal of winning their third all-Filipino crown and claiming the gold-encrusted, half-a-million-peso Perpetual Trophy, otherwise known as Emilio ‘Jun’ Bernardino Trophy.

Winning their third consecutive Philippine Cup carries none of the unprecedented significance of the so-called ‘Beeracle’ since one other ballclub – TNT KaTropa – has beaten them to the honor in 2013, but the Beermen wouldn’t mind sharing the distinction.

“That would also be historic for us,” said SMB alternate governor Robert Non.

Largely due to the presence of 6-foot-10 center June Mar Fajardo, San Miguel has ruled the non-import conference since although Alaska nearly denied the Beermen their second title after taking a 3-0 lead last year in the championship.

That set the stage for the biggest comebacks in Philippine sports history.

The unforgettable memory of SMB returning from the grave, seared into the consciousness of those who witnessed the Herculean effort, led at least five team representatives during yesterday’s PBA 42nd season press conference at Makati Shangri-La to point the Beermen as the team to beat.

Rene Pardo of Star, Erick Arejola of Globalport, Raymond Zorrilla of Phoenix, Ryan Gregorio of Meralco and coach Leo Isaac of Blackwater had SMB topping their Final 4 choices.

Dickie Bachmann of Alaska, apparently alluding to the dominance of the sister teams in the league, said any of the ballclubs from “San Miguel Corporation and the MVP Group” could make it to the semifinals, “plus Alaska.”

Non left SMB out of his last four, picking Alaska first, while Alfrancis Chua, the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel governor and team manager, had TNT heading his list.

The media launch was also graced by NLEX’s Asi Taulava, Mahindra’s LA Revilla, Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter, Phoenix’s JC Intal, Star’s Rafi Reavis, regular draft top pick Raphael Banal of Blackwater and James Yap of Rain or Shine.

Yap, traded to RoS by Star for Lee in a deal, provided comic relief when he was asked by master of ceremony Quinito Henson to talk about his new team.

“Nawala nga si Paul Lee pero nadagdag naman si Jay Washington at James Yap; mas malakas ang Rain or Shine ngayon,” the two-time MVP nonchalantly said.

PBA chairman Mikee Romero, team owner of Globalport, spoke through hoarseness in the aftermath of the league governors’ sojourn to Seoul last week, extolling the values of hard work by the players who aspire for fame and fortune, and the approaching “parity” among the teams.

“This promises to be a great season,” said Romero, who succeeded Non at the helm.

Second-year commissioner Chito Narvasa reiterated the PBA’s path.

“Our direction is to focus on excellence,” Narvasa said. “For the owners to form the best teams possible, the players to reward their teams with undying loyalty, and for our media partners to make all available resources to cover the games, extend the coverage to the farthest corners of our land, and to reach new markets for the Pinoy brand of basketball.”

A new PBA app, introduced during the media launch, has been designed to spread the gospel of the league through the web and on cellular phones. A moment of silence and prayer for noted sportscaster and columnist Ronnie Nathanielsz, who passed away Saturday, preceded the press conference.