Fajardo dominates as all-Filipino San Miguel stuns Alaska once again
MANILA, Philippines – They were two teams that have fought many battles in the past year. They met in 3 Finals series – the last time almost 7 months ago – before Wednesday, August 24.
But on an elimination round game in the 2016 PBA Governors' Cup, the San Miguel Beermen proved they still have their rivals' number when they overturned a 12-point third quarter deficit and stunned the Alaska Aces, 106-103.
The Beermen, playing all-Filipino with import Arizona Reid sidelined due to an Achilles injury, once again relied on team effort and the dominance of reigning back-to-back MVP June Mar Fajardo, who posted 37 points and pulled down 14 rebounds with 3 assists, a steal, and 3 blocks.
It was the most Fajardo scored since he had 43 points against Alaska as well in the Philippine Cup.
"It's a huge, huge game for us because we're playing without an import. But the good thing is every player was challenged," said head coach Leo Austria, who once more knew what to do with the Aces.
"Maybe it's a blessing in disguise because we proved that we can win. We don't have to rely on players, we rely on the team."
San Miguel went to battle sans prolific scorer Reid, whom Austria clarified was still part of the lineup. They are, however, searching for a temporary replacement for him as he recovers from his injury.
Alex Cabagnot had 17 points and 5 assists plus a perfect 3-of-3 shooting from downtown. Marcio Lassiter made two treys to add 12 points, 4 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and 4 blocks.
Arwind Santos finished with 11 markers, 8 boards, and 4 dimes while JayR Reyes added 10 points to round out the double-digit scoring for the Beermen, who are now 5-2 in the standings.
The fourth quarter storm San Miguel unleashed eerily looked like a replay of similar ones they've done in the past against Alaska.
The Aces appeared to have control of the game after import LaDontae Henton buried a trey with under 6 minutes remaining for the 11-point 94-83 lead.
But the Beermen rallied, and with barely two minutes left in the game, they had taken the lead on a booming Cabagnot 3-pointer. Another long range bomb from Cabagnot 24 seconds later made it a 102-99 advantage.
Alaska's bench was stunned. But it wasn't over yet.
A pair of Calvin Abueva free throws, a split from the line by Fajardo, and a smooth Henton jumper tied things up at 103 with 33 seconds left.
Fajardo then made 3 of his last 4 free throws for the final tally, as Alaska scrambled and Henton failed to convert his attempts. Abueva was up in arms after the final buzzer when the referees did not call what they believed was a foul by Chris Ross on a Henton triple attempt that could've awarded him 3 free throws.
Another comeback complete, and the Beermen are now 6-0 over the Aces since their historic Philippine Cup Finals fightback from 0-3 down to win the title nearly 7 months ago.
Henton had a game-high 45 points with 15 rebounds, while Abueva added 15 markers, 13 rebounds, and 6 assists.
JVee Casio and RJ Jazul had 13 and 11 points, respectively, as Alaska rallied from an 11-point second quarter deficit to keep it close by halftime.
The defeat left the Aces with a 2-5 record after a 1-4 start to the conference, and the bitter taste of a meltdown to the Beermen once again.
San Miguel (106): Fajardo 37, Cabagnot 17, Lassiter 12, Santos 11, Reyes 10, David 5, Ross 5, Arana 4, Tubid 3, De Ocampo 2, Semerad 0.
Alaska (103): Henton 45, Abueva 15, Casio 13, Jazul 11, Baclao 6, Banchero 5, Thoss 4, Hontiveros 3, Racal 1, Exciminiano 0, Magat 0, Menk 0.
Quarter scores: 27-23, 51-46, 72-80, 106-103.