Calvin Abueva saved the best for last in Alaska’s 76-70 victory over a tough Meralco side on Wednesday to help the Aces reach the PBA Finals for the 3rd straight conference.
Alaska outlasted the top-seed Meralco, 3-2 in their Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series behind Abueva’s game-long brilliance.
The former PBA Rookie of the Year fired 14 of his team-high 19 points in the winner-take-all match, including the last 4 free throws to seal Alaska’s 31st Finals appearance in franchise history.
There’s no doubt that the “Beast” was happy after leading the Aces back to the championship round. But with a tinge of regret.
Asked what his thoughts are since Alaska will be facing Rain or Shine, instead of the powerhouse San Miguel Beer, who have beaten the Aces in their last 3 Finals appearances, this was his response:
“Mas maganda for the third time in Finals appearance, pero sorry, kami ang umakyat. Saka sayang din, may import silang (Beermen) magaling,” Abueva told media men after the game.
The 6-foot-1 Abueva said he meant no disrespect to Rain or Shine, which clobbered San Miguel, the league’s most dominant team in the last 4 conferences following its 3-1 semifinal series win last Sunday.
“Marami akong nababasa na wala lang San Miguel parang ano, pero di lang naman all the time sila lang ang katapat namin (sa Finals),” said the “Beast”, a cinch to win his 1st-ever PBA Best Player of the Conference plum.
“Saka pinursige namin na makarating dito sa Finals. Umabot ng Game 5 ang laro at napaganda pa. Kaya ngayon, ginawa namin para sa Finals, kukunin pa namin.”
With only 1 day to prepare before Game 1 of the Finals on Friday, Abueva said the Aces will continue to play with their “We-not-Me” mentality when they face the Elasto Painters.
“Hindi naman namin pino-problema kung wala yung mga gumagawa sa amin. Basta kami as a team maglalaro,” said Abueva, whose team will miss the services of injured veterans JV Casio, Vic Manuel and Eric Menk in the Finals. – By Richard Dy
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