The San Miguel Beermen did the improbable as they beat the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters, 100-87, to finish the series 4-0, the first time the franchise swept a seven-game series. More importantly, they enter the finals once more after more than a year’s absence. This is also marks the first PBA finals appearance for Coach Leo Austria. Leading BPC June Mar Fajardo demolished the defense as he stuffed the stat sheet with 28 points, 16 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 blocks.
The Beermen were down for all of 49 seconds (1-0) before taking the lead and never looking back. They went up double digits a few times and fought off a few mini-rallies. Game three seemed to have had a more profound effect on the Tropang Texters than anticipated as they were disorganized on both ends. They never really threatened until a final quarter led by veterans Jimmy Alapag and Danny Seigle. The Beermen on their part were not rattled and eventually snatched the momentum right back for the victory.
|FG||3PT||TS%||TREB||TOV||TOV PTS||FB PTS|
They always say that the hardest games are the ones needed to clinch the series. There was a lot of pressure to close this one out early, especially with past experiences of choking big leads. San Miguel could not have made it look any easier. Simply put, they were relaxed and played loose. They stuck to the gameplan, didn’t force the issue, and didn’t try to go for the big knockout plays. This loose play led to them shooting almost 60% from the field for the whole game, including a 12/19 mark in the second quarter. Their defense was stifling as well, allowing the Tropang Texters to shoot just 37.9% from the field despite them having 24 more shot attempts. They forced them to either shoot contested three-pointers or try to score over the outstretched arms of the bigs. They were pretty successful both ways, especially in defending the arc. They finally controlled the boards, grabbing 57% of all available rebounds, stamping their class in that category. They did lose the offensive rebounding again but that’s more of a product of such a high shooting clip compared to Talk ‘N Text’s.
This loose play also resulted in a 20-8 advantage in fastbreak points. For a team not known for it, they sure looked comfortable shredding the Tropang Texters in transition. The second unit in particular was extremely effective. The only real knock on their game was the abnormally high number of turnovers. They had a conference-high 28 for the game, leading to 34 turnover points for the opposition. They threw the ball away on 30% of their possessions as opposed to just 12.3% for the Tropang Texters. All of that didn’t really matter for the Beermen as they simply overpowered them in every facet of the game.
The Kraken Show
June Mar Fajardo punctuated his series with a boxscore-stuffing line of 28-16-5-2 on a ridiculous 71.3 TS%. With Talk ‘N Text deciding to go single coverage on him at the start, he went to work early by hitting three shots in the first four minutes, including his now famous “Kraken Step”
and a tough fadeaway jumper with Kelly Williams all over him.
He had team-highs in every category except steals, which unfortunately included a career-high 9 turnovers. That didn’t do much to deter him however as he displayed his full offensive arsenal. The decision to cover him one-on-one only served to get him into the groove early as he traversed double and triple-teams pretty well. Not also displayed his play-making abilities en route to a career-high 5 assists.
He wasn’t alone however as many of his teammates stepped up to clinch the series. Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Lutz, and Ronald Tubid were a combined 22/36 from the field (61.1%). After sniping away from deep in game three, Santos showed off his inside game as he was 6/10 from inside the arc and also grabbed 10 rebounds for a double-double. He was also a terror in the passing lanes, grabbing a team-high 3 steals. Alex Cabagnot finished a great series with 16 points and 6 rebounds as he did almost everything. He was hitting jumpers, finishing in the paint, getting fouls, and grabbing boards. Chris Lutz was his usual efficient self, missing only one shot from inside the arc. He also flashed what’s becoming a very reliable midrange jumper. Ronald Tubid was probably the most symbolic of the Beermen’s loose play as he was constantly out in transition. He also showed off a few highlight plays, including breaking Jayson Castro’s ankles with a sweet crossover (unfortunately he didn’t finish).
All is well and good right now in San Miguel’s world, especially with how last season played out and how low expectations were coming into this conference. Once again, Coach Austria has done a heck of a job organizing this squad. Of course, the journey isn’t over yet as they await the winner of the physical series between the Alaska Aces and the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. In the meantime, the Beermen have all the time to rest up, prepare, and try to finish what they started. For the first time in about a year, fans have something positive to look forward to.