WILL the San Miguel Beermen take it all the way to the end?
After crawling out of a 0-3 hole, tying the series and extending it to a deciding Game 7, the San Miguel Beermen are on the edge of history as the first Philippine Basketball Association team to have survived a 3-0 deficit and eventually win the title.
The roller-coaster Smart PBA Philippine Cup championship series between the San Miguel Beermen and the Alaska Aces finally ends tonight in Game 7 of the series at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Historically, the odds are up against SMB because no team in the PBA has ever come back to win a championship after a 0-3 hole. But after winning four straight games to tie the series at 3-3, the momentum is surely in the Beermen's side.
“I think the momentum is now with SMB, but they cannot be overconfident,” PBA legend Mon Fernandez told Sun.Star Cebu.
One of the huge turnarounds in the series was the return of star center June Mar Fajardo, who was out for the first four games due to a knee injury in the semifinals.
“Definitely!,” said Fernandez of Fajardo's importance in SMB's momentum swing.
But the game, however, isn't in the bag already for the Beermen.
“Whoever controls the rebounds and shoot a better percentage (wins),” said the former PBA MVP.
Atty. Baldomero Estenzo, University of Cebu's basketball team manager, believes that the Game 7 could go either way.
“It's hard to tell. Alaska is hungry for revenge and they have the personnel and defense to do it for them. SMB, on the other hand, is after a place in PBA history as the first basketball team in the PBA and NBA to overcome a 0-3 deficit to become champions. Also they have the personnel and offense to do it. So, my prognosis is the team with the bigger desire to win will make it. Either way, UC will have a member in the champion team. If SMB wins, there is June Mar Fajardo. If Alaska wins, there is Dondon Hontiveros. Good luck to both teams,” said Estenzo, who is also the dean of UC's College of Law.
Fajardo, the former star of UC, was indeed a huge lift for SMB, either on the court or on the bench.
“Definitely. Even the mere presence of June Mar in the bench of SMB, inspires his teammates no end. Their confidence level soars. For Alaska to win, their defense must be tight and consistent. For SMB to win, more touches for June Mar to open up SMB shooters. Of course, SMB has to improve its defensive execution. Also, more players must be fielded to avoid fatigue on the starters,” said Estenzo.
For Cebu Sports Commissioner in-charge of basketball Chao Sy, however, is convinced that SMB will take home the crown tonight.
“June Mar can help but not that much, maybe five minutes per quarter. SMB is hard to beat because they are all veterans. They have to slow the tempo of the offense, use zone defense and pressure Alaska. I think SMB will be the champions,” he said.