It was another heartbreaker of a loss for the San Miguel Beermen, losing to the Alaska Aces, 78-70, to go down 2-1 in this best-of-seven series. They wasted yet another big lead, this time a huge 18-point fourth quarter advantage. Team captain Arwind Santos led the way once more with a game-high 20 points and 11 rebounds, shrugging off another bloody gush under his right eyebrow.

Key Stats

The Bad, the Good, and the Downright Ugly

For the first time this series, San Miguel started out flat, only registering 8 points in the opening period. They couldn’t step into the shaded lane and were limited to several long jumpers. Fortunately, their defense holded up well, only giving up transition buckets. They also kept themselves afloat with their work on the offensive glass. After that, everything suddenly clicked. They were decisive with the ball, hit the three-ball at a very good rate, and hustled for offensive boards and loose balls to keep possessions alive. And for once, they took care of the rock (turned it over in more than 20% of their possessions in the first two games). On the defensive end, they were able to run Alaska’s shooters off the three-point line, resulting to just 1 made shot from deep. In the third quarter, they took a page out of Alaska’s book as they pushed the pace on almost every opportunity, whether off of pressuring the passing lanes or forcing missed shots. That all drastically changed in the fourth quarter. Just look at how both teams performed in the first three periods compared to the last:

SMB

PTS FG% paint 3PT% TREB 2CH PTS AST TOV TO PTS FB PTS

1st 3 quarters

64 39% 22 37.5% 39 15 17 10 18 9

4th quarter

6 6.67% 0 0 8 0 0 6 0 0

ALA

PTS FG% paint 3PT% TREB 2CH AST TOV TO PTS FB PTS

1st 3 quarters

46 40.4% 38 1.11% 30 4 13 14 12 12

4th quarter

32 48% 12 37.5% 21 7 9 0 2 8

To say that both did a complete 180 would be a gross understatement. It gets even worse when you look a little deeper:

SMB

TS% OREB% DREB% TREB% AST% TOV%

1st 3 quarters

49.4% 35.1% 81.3% 56.5% 28.8% 13.4%

4th quarter

17.4% 14.3% 40% 27.6% 0 25.9%

ALA

TS% OREB% DREB% TREB% AST% TOV%

1st 3 quarters

42.1% 18.8% 64.9% 43.5% 25% 20.4%

4th quarter

55.2% 60% 85.7% 72.4% 36% 0

The Beermen simply went away from what got them the lead in the first place, which was as high as 21. The increased defensive intensity from the Aces forced a lot of that change as they successfully pressured them into making a lot of mistakes. The ball stopped moving, their open looks were contested, and they were forced into ill-advised long jumpers. They turned the ball over a ton and didn’t get back fast enough in transition. They lost control of the glass as well, losing their huge rebounding edge in just 12 minutes. It might have just been a mental thing. They grew complacent, loosened up a bit, and allowed the Aces to get a few stops and scores in. By the time they tried to fix it, it was already too late as all the momentum went to the other side. Unfortunately, this loss of focus has been all too familiar.

A lot of players were responsible for that third quarter run, but it had a lot to do with the hustle of Chris Ross, Jeric Fortuna, Nelbert Omolon, and Doug Kramer. Coach Leo Austria went with his finishing lineup (Cabagnot-Lutz-Lassiter-Santos-Fajardo) immediately at the start of the fourth and proceeded to force-feed June Mar Fajardo down low. It may have been a bit too early, especially with the third quarter bench unit playing so well. I couldn’t blame him either for trying to get his number one scoring option going offensively with such a big lead. It just backfired on him as the inability to get him good looks made the offense sputter, something they never recovered from.

Game Notes

Former MVP Showing Up…

Arwind Santos had himself another fine game, totaling 20 points, including 3 triples, for a 47.5 effective FG%. Once again, he found a lot of success going inside the arc and making those tough floating jumpers. He also added to his interior game by grabbing 11 rebounds. Credit has to be given to how he (and Chris Ross) played the Alaska passing lanes, using his long arms to deflect passes into the paint. He was also a solid defensive anchor, able to deny easy layups several times. That effort led to his 2 steals and 1 block. He couldn’t do much in the fourth quarter, being scoreless in that, but his renewed ability to carry the team has been huge in this series. And speaking of carrying…

While the Reigning MVP is MIA

June Mar Fajardo turned his worst performance in the finals so far: 13 points, 9 boards, and 4 turnovers in 36 minutes. He struggled mightily, having to bleed for each and every point. His play in the last period was especially painful to watch as he could not get good position to catch the ball and catch it clean. Even if he did, he couldn’t do much with it. His favorite spin move was repeatedly denied, he couldn’t back down his defender, and he turned it over with poor passing. Defensively, he wasn’t much better, repeatedly allowing incursions inside the paint by both bigs and guards. At the very least, he was still a factor on the offensive glass and got to the line. Overall, it was a frustrating and forgettable night for the young man as he still can’t find his comfort zone.

smb ala g3 kraken

Alaska has done the improbable: shut down the Kraken. Can he respond? (Photo Credit: Pranz Kaeno Billones, Sports5)

With Alaska’s defense specifically designed to stop him from scoring, he has to find other ways to contribute. One of those ways is to keep fighting for offensive rebounds, something he did very well in Game 2, especially considering that is usually the only time he can get clean looks at the basket. Defensively, as the last line of defense, he has to do a much better job stopping penetration. He has to realize that that it’s not a mortal sin to give up a foul here and there, especially if it’s to stop a sure layup. Lastly, he needs to roll hard in pick-and-rolls, seeing as he sucks in almost every Alaska defender, leaving a lot more space to operate for the perimeter players. That will not only open up things for his teammates, but for him as well eventually.

The Missing Links

Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter haven’t performed up to par but they’ve been slowly improving. They combined for 14 points (4/12 FGs, 3/6 3PTs), 8 rebounds, 5 assists, and just 1 turnover. It’s still a farcry from what they produced in the semifinals but an improvement nonetheless. It’s simply a case of making their shots. If they can somehow break out of their slumps, that makes the San Miguel bench extremely dangerous.

The Bruisers

Speaking of the bench, special mention has be given once again to Nelbert Omolon (2 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 14 minutes), Doug Kramer (2 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 11 minutes), and David Semerad (4 points, 3 rebounds, 7 minutes). Their motor has been invaluable for the team to match Calvin Abueva and co. They also showed they’re not afraid to trade punches now and then.


It was nothing short of a heartbreaking loss but it’s not over yet. There is still a lot of game left to play in this series and I’m sure the boys know that. I don’t remember the exact quote but it went along the lines of this: to win, you have to be prepared to lose and lose big. That is what this team is painfully realizing right now. The important thing is to stand up and get the next one. After the meltdown of Game 1, they responded well in Game 2. Hopefully, they have an even bigger response set for Game 4. #FearTheBeer


Featured Image Credit: Pranz Kaeno Billones, Sports5