San Miguel Beer just rewrote basketball history by rallying from a 0-3 deficit and winning their best-of-7 Finals series against the utterly distraught and heartbroken Alaska Aces.
The Beermen, despite not having reigning BPC and MVP June Mar Fajardo for the series’s 1st 4 games, were able to win mainly because many other players stepped up. Most notable among these, of course, was Chris Ross, who eventually pocketed the Finals MVP plum. Along with him, guys like Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot, Gabby Espinas, Ronald Tubid, and even seldom-used center Yancy de Ocampo pitched in and occasionally starred for coach Leo Austria.
It was an achievement beyond words, a milestone that defined a conference and that will serve as a benchmark for the future not just of the league of the sport.
The path to the title, however, is littered with several what-could-have-beens, especially for a team like Alaska, which blew past the competition for the better part of this past conference till that fateful Game 4.
Among those what-could-have-beens by the wayside are 5 guys we “missed” in these Finals, or guys who played well below expectations.
1. RJ Jazul
Jazul was an inconsistent commodity for the Aces in the Finals. Expectations were high for him after he led Alaska in scoring in the semifinals, but he was checked by SMB in the titular series. He couldn’t get his usual rhythm, and he was hardly a factor in most of the contests.
Jazul Semis vs GLO: 13.2ppg, 5.0rpg, 2.6apg, 1.0spg, 2.4 triples per game, 40.0 3pt%, 95.2 FT%
Jazul Finals vs SMB: 7.0ppg, 2.1rpg, 2.3apg, 0.7 triples per game, 15.2 3pt%
2. Dondon Hontiveros
Hontiveros was pretty solid for Alaska early in this series, putting up two double-digit scoring games (Games 2 & 4), but he mysteriously faded in Games 5-7, scoring a grand total of 9 points on 3/18 FG shooting.
The former Beerman just couldn’t really get any rhythm going offensively, and he couldn’t come up with even 1 steal in the last 3 games after averaging 1 swipe per contest in Games 1-4.
Hontiveros Games 1-4: 7.8ppg, 3.0rpg, 1.8apg, 1.0spg, 1.3 triples per game
Hontiveros Games 5-7: 3.0ppg, 1.0rpg, 1.0 triple per game
3. JV Casio
Apart from Jazul and Hontiveros, though, the most conspicuous “absence” was from former Gilas playmaker JV Casio.
The former Green Archer was solid as Alaska’s main floor general in the elims and semis, but he was really up-and-down in the Finals. He did pick up his scoring in Games 6-7, but that was too late since the Beermen already had overwhelming momentum on their side.
I actually think that if there’s anyone on Alaska that may get shipped out, Casio may be near the top of the list.
Casio elims & semis: 9.7ppg, 2.8rpg, 3.1apg, 1.5 triples per game, 36.9 3pt%, 41.4 FG%, 2.8 fouls per game
Casio Finals: 7.0ppg, 2.9rpg, 2.0apg, 1.6 triples per game, 36.7 3pt%, 3.7 fouls per game, 35.6 FG%
4. Chris Lutz
Lutz has always been a marginal contributor for SMB this season, but his role got even more diminished in the Finals, where Marcio Lassiter and Ronald Tubid got bulk of the minutes at the wing positions.
He is, in my opinion, the biggest casualty due to SMB’s depth. He’s too good to be putting up the numbers he is, so I’m honestly hoping he gets moved to a team that can maximize his skill-set.
Lutz last season: 7.6ppg, 2.8rpg, 2.4apg, 81.7 FT%, 26.2mpg
Lutz this season: 4.8ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.5apg, 41.7 FT%
5. Ryan Araña
The former DLSU and ROS spitfire had only 1 good game in the Finals, and then he was little more than a trinket for the Beermen in the other contests.
Like Lutz, Araña got buried on the bench, and his utility was further diminished as the stakes got higher.
In fact, he totaled just 13 minutes in Games 4-7, and he didn’t even play in Game 7.
Araña Games 1-3: 5.0ppg, 1.3rpg, 50.0 FG%
Araña Games 4-7 totals: 1pt, 1reb, 0/1 FGs. — By Enzo Flojo