by Jonas Terrado
San Miguel Beer barely captured the PBA Philippine Cup crown for an unprecedented fifth straight time after surviving Magnolia, 72-71, before a crowd of over 12,000 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Alex Cabagnot hit the decisive basket with 57 seconds remaining while PBA Press Corps-Honda Finals MVP June Mar Fajardo broke the league’s longest standing record with 31 rebounds to extend the Beermen’s reign in the PBA’s most prestigious tournament.
The Beermen survived the siege after falling behind 43-26 early in the third quarter as Fajardo overcame fatigue, Cabagnot broke out of an inconsistent series and Arwind Santos deliver on both ends to lead the comeback.
Cabagnot finished with 18 points, including the go-ahead jumper off Paul Lee from the baseline.
Magnolia tried to reclaim the driver seat but Jio Jalalon missed a running shot on the next play.
Marcio Lassiter gave SMB and its supporters a scare when he turned the ball over with 17 seconds left, giving Magnolia another opportunity to steal the game and the Jun Bernardino Perpetual Trophy.
Lee drove to the lane against two defenders before dropping it off to Jalalon for a potential go-ahead basket. But Jalalon missed and Fajardo grabbed the rebound before being fouled by Rafi Reavis, four ticks left.
Fajardo missed both free throws and Lee’s desperate heave went nowhere as time expired, setting off a wild celebration by San Miguel.
Fajardo’s rebound output broke the old mark of 29 set by Marcelo Simbulan for 7-Up in the league’s inaugural season in 1975.
His effort left no doubt that the five-time Most Valuable Player was the clear choice as the best player of the series.
SMB won despite turning the ball over 18 times in the first half and scoring a record-low five points in the second quarter, giving Magnolia a 38-25 halftime lead.
Barroca’s five straight points put the Hotshots in front 43-26, which almost appeared to be insurmountable until the Beermen went on a big uprising.
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