The San Miguel Beermen lost in the worst way possible as they squandered a huge 22-point lead early and lost to the Alaska Aces in overtime, 88-82. Alaska’s bench was more than a handful as Calvin Abueva, Chris Banchero, and Dondon Hontiveros combined for 51 points. Meanwhile, Chris Lutz led the way for San Miguel with 24 while June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos contributed 26 points and 28 rebounds.

The Beermen started out with a purpose as they played a near-perfect game in the first quarter on both ends. The offense was flowing as their defense generated opportunities for them by forcing sorry misses and careless turnovers. The Aces were caught by surprise as they only had five points. The Beermen themselves tallied 27, including a 16-0 run to end the period. Even with their lead trimmed several times in the second period, they were able to respond to almost every mini-run, dousing cold water on any comeback attempt as they held on to a solid 14-point advantage at the half. Little did they know that the nightmare was just about to begin as Alaska’s defense tightened up in a big way and San Miguel was left without any answers as they could not score the same way they did in the first. By the time Alaska took their first lead of the game, they look rattled. Despite the meltdown, they still had their chances to win the game but some late-game blunders eventually did them in, unable to respond to the energy of Alaska in the fourth and overtime.

Key Stats

FG% 3PT% Points in the Paint TOs TOV PTS FB PTS


36.9% 25.0% 36 27 10 9


33.7% 32.0% 36 17 15 13

A Stagnant Offense

smb ala finals g1 catch

Just getting the ball was difficult enough. (Photo Credit: Jerome Ascano,

As I mentioned, San Miguel started out like a house on fire, shooting just a little under 50% in the first half (and that was with them shooting blanks from deep). They simply lorded in over in that half in the paint, on the offensive glass, and in transition. That all changed in the second half as the ball movement that made them so dangerous simply vanished. A big reason was their inability to dump the ball into June Mar Fajardo down low. Credit has to be given to Alex Compton and his team as they improved on what Talk ‘N Text did in the semifinals. Their bigs were fronting Fajardo all game with at least two players lurking in the background, making entry passes tough to deliver from almost any angle. Even when Fajardo got the ball, either a quick double from the baseline or an automatic triple-team in the paint would smother him. Not only did he have a tough time getting into position to score, but he couldn’t find an open man as easily either. Unfortunately, it was made a lot harder by San Miguel’s ice cold three-point shooting, hitting just eight of 32 attempts. Compare that to their 20.2 attempts and 33.5% clip in the semifinals and you see the problem. Alaska dared them to keep shooting and the Beermen just kept missing as they were forced to resort to the outside. That compounded their issues of dumping the ball down low as they could not space the floor properly.

They also had issues taking care of the ball, turning it over a staggering 27 times, including 17 in the pivotal second half. They already had problems executing their halfcourt sets and those giveaways didn’t make it any easier. It only made life better for Alaska as they kept taking advantage of those miscues with 15 points off those plus 13 fast break points, most of them coming in the second half as well. Part of it was definitely the rust from their two-week layoff but the Beermen seemed to lose focus a few times during the contest, especially in the end. They’ll have to refocus and adjust their offense quickly if they want a chance in this series.

Key Performances

From Hero to Zero

“Where would San Miguel be without Chris Lutz” was the question for much of the game and it was true. He was the only one who was able to consistently find ways to score on Alaska’s tough wall of a defense. He shot 9-of-12 on twos, slashing his way in and hitting that all too reliable midrange jumper. The only thing he couldn’t do was hit from deep (1/6) but he more than made up for it with his 4 boards and 4 dimes as well. Despite his team-high performance, what everyone will remember will be his late-game blunder, With the game tied and less than 8 seconds left, San Miguel’s defense managed to get a stop as they forced an tough, early shot from Alaska. In the mad scramble for the rebound, Lutz managed to pick up the ball, took a few steps, and threw a desperation heave. That would’ve been a fine attempt if not for the fact that they had still had two full timeouts left and about three seconds on the game clock. You could see it in his face as soon as he realized it and they never quite recovered from that in overtime. That is just one example of the lack of focus as the pressure got to him. That shouldn’t detract from an amazing game however. He just has to let go of it and make up for it in the coming games.

smb ala finals g1 lutz

A strong game 2 performance would be the perfect way to bounce back from that blunder. (Photo Credit: Jerome Ascano,

The Key to Victory

June Mar Fajardo still remains the key if San Miguel wants to win this series. This game just showed that once more. In all three of their losses so far, it was because they could not get him the ball consistently. He still had a solid night (14 points, 17 rebounds, 2 blocks, and no turnovers) but only scored 6 points in the last three quarters with just nine field goal attempts in almost 48 minutes of action. Most notably, he only had a usage rate (the number of scoring possessions he used while on the court) of 11.7%. Compare that to his USG% of 31.9% in the semifinals and you see where the problem lies. Credit goes to Sonny Thoss and Eric Menk for making life difficult for him. San Miguel just needs to execute their sets better as their timing seemed to be off. At times, Fajardo would be posting up on the right side while the ball was still on the other side of the court or they would be reversing the ball while he was already in position. In other words, they looked like a rusty team execution-wise. They also have to get him the ball in other ways. It would be nice to see him involved in more pick and rolls or cuts to the rim instead of just straight post-ups that are easily defended. Simply put, it was too predictable for Alaska. They need some more creativity especially against this kind of defense. For Fajardo himself, he needs to go hard and overpower his defenders instead of trying to outmaneuver them. He also needs to set better screens as he usually just slips or doesn’t make any contact with the defender. He needs to look at how Thoss screened for JVee Casio several times, leaving him with open looks.

Disappearing Act

Aside from those two, no one else really stepped up to the plate. Arwind Santos had one of his worst games in a while. It was definitely a confusing performance as he was hit-and-miss. He finished with 12-11-3, had a few defensive stops (two steals and four blocks), and hit two huge triples in the fourth to keep in step with Alaska. But that couldn’t make up for his team-high eight turnovers and largely non-existent presence for much of the game. On offense, the ball kept slipping from his hands and he was throwing some errant passes while on defense, he was getting beat up in the post by both Calvin Abueva and Vic Manuel. He simply looked lost out there, like the Santos of the last two seasons. As the captain of this squad, he has to be an example for the team out on the court.

The bench was a non-factor as well. The biggest suspects here are Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, and Ronald Tubid. After a solid return in the semifinals, Cabagnot laid a proverbial egg in this game as he only registered a 6-2-5 line on 22% shooting. Not only was he unable to hit his shots, but his quarterbacking left a lot to be desired. As expected, he handled the fullcourt pressure well enough but looked lost and confused when running plays in the halfcourt. He was either dribbling nowhere or hesitated to pass the ball into the post. With the ball stuck in his hands, San Miguel’s offense just stopped. Lassiter and Tubid weren’t any better as they only tallied four points on one of 10 shooting. It’s not the best indicator of individual performance but their plus-minus number were definitely telling:

Alex Cabagnot


Ronald Tubid


Marcio Lassiter


Compare that to the starters they usually sub in for:

Ronald Pascual


Chris Ross


Chris Lutz


Speaking of the starters, it would have been nice to see some more floor time for Chris Ross and Ronald Pascual as they were a big part of why the team started out hot. Ross ended with 2-9-7 including three steals while Pascual scored 10 points (seven in the first quarter). I can see why Leo Austria went with Cabagnot and Lassiter to space the floor but with them shooting blanks, it might have been a better idea to get the other two starters on the court instead.

It was definitely a hard loss to swallow but there are some positives to take away. The defense wasn’t much of a problem as they made it hard for Alaska to score in the halfcourt as well. They just gave away way too many easy opportunities off their turnovers. They just have to execute better on the offensive end. They have to learn from this game and let go. It’s still a long series and they will have to focus on making the next move.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Ryan Tan, Sports5