It was the one that got away.
Vic Manuel, the unheralded and undersized big man who has found his niche at Alaska, was on his way to immortality until something happened along the way.
Manuel was a cinch to win the Finals MVP after leading the Aces to 3 straight wins and the same number of Best Player of the Game citations.
“The Finals MVP isn’t that important to me. What really matters to me is to win my first PBA championship. I hope I will still get another chance, we’ll work hard for it,” Manuel said after losing their 3rd straight Finals against the San Miguel Beermen.
Even in San Miguel’s Games 4 to 6 wins to tie the series, Manuel still emerged as Alaska’s most consistent player.
The journeyman, who played his 1st 2 seasons with GlobalPort and Air21, scored no less than 17 points in the each of the first 6 games of the series. He even had double-doubles in Games 4 and 5 and was a rebound shy of having another in Game 6.
But all his effort went down the drain as they let the opportunity slip out of their hands.
“We’re too eager to finish them off. And when we’re up (by 11) in the fourth quarter, we relaxed a bit,” recalled Manuel referring to their Game 4 meltdown that gave the Beermen the opening to stage the epic comeback.
San Miguel came back and won it via overtime, 110-104, signaling the start of Alaska’s freefall.
In the grandest stage and the biggest moment of the series, Manuel was reduced to a picture of disappointment.
He fizzled out with a series-worst 3 points and 5 rebounds in Game 7.
“I’m so disappointed. I’m really frustrated that I played my worst during the most important game of the series. But I offer no excuse, we did our best,” Manuel said. “But San Miguel deserved the championship, they never gave up.”
Unknown to many, Manuel twisted his ankle during the 1st quarter of Game 7 that limited him to just 22 minutes, the least he played all series long.
“When I was battling for the rebound against Arwind, I landed with all my force in my one leg. I twisted my ankle when Arwind landed on my foot,” Manuel said. “But I’m okay. Maybe, I just need to rest.”
Manuel can endure the physical pain but this loss will be hard to bear.
“We just have to forget this and move on,” he said.