Following the dramatic turn on Sunday that ended the Alaska Aces’ 3-0 streak in the Finals, the San Miguel Beermen won their second straight game last night, 86-73, in the fifth round of the 2016 Philippine Cup.
For their part, the Aces played with hearts on fire, hustling on both offense and defense while displaying the strength of their credo, “We Not Me”. With Game 5 being another close game, Muscle Man Vic Manuel spearheaded the Aces’ efforts, scoring a career-high 25 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. With 3:03 remaining on the third, RJ Jazul nailed back-to-back threes to give the Aces the lead. The Beast Calvin Abueva played with seemingly endless energy and flexed his muscles as he banged with the Beermen’s bigs down the post to finish the game with a double-double. Finally, with the Aces down three points with less than 56 seconds left in regulation, Dondon “Mr. Hotshot” Hontiveros drilled a clutch three to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Similarities to Cyrus Baguio’s overtime-securing three-pointer in Game 4, déjà vu seemed to be the order of the day in Game 5, with the only major difference being the venue (Araneta Coliseum, as opposed to last Sunday’s Philsports Arena). Once more, the balloons and confetti were ready to drop on the incoming champions, serving as stark (if colorful) reminders of how victory has, thus far, been tantalizingly just out of reach.
One major surprise this time around, however, was the presence of league MVP June Mar Fajardo, “The Kraken” himself, despite prior signs that he was out at least until a hypothetical Game 7 due to a knee injury suffered in the semis. From the moment he stood from the Beerman bench, he seemed determined to make up for his absence in the first four games. With Fajardo back in action, the Beermen played with an intensity that saw almost everyone clicking from both ends of the floor, including Spiderman Arwind Santos, who ended the night with 22 points, 16 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots.
Game 6 is set for Friday (January 29), and a win by either side on that day will either mean the crowning of a champion, or this series going back to square one.
For the followers of both sides, what a time to be a fan.