SMB San Miguel Beer players celebrate. Photo by Ernie Sarmiento

Sweeter the 29th time around

February 16, 2024 Robert Andaya 199 views
SMB import Bennie Boatwright.
Photo by Ernie Sarmiento

IT was sweet, sweet Valentine’s Day for San Miguel Beer.

San Miguel displayed the heart of a champion in a dramatic, come-from-behind 104-102 victory over Magnolia Chicken Timplados to capture the PBA Commissioner’s Cup crown before another big crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

With the win, the Beermen wrapped up the scheduled best-of-seven title series, four games to two.

More importantly, the win enabled the Beermen to capture a record 29th PBA championship — and fifth Commissioner’s Cup crown — since 1975.

Best Player of the Conference winner CJ Perez delivered the game’s biggest baskets as he scored 24 of his playoff career-high 28 points in the final two quarters to help the Beermen erase a double-digit deficit.

Perez’s heroics included a backbreaking three-point shot that put the Beermen ahead, 103-99, with only 48 seconds remaining.

The high-flying Perez was later named as the PBA Finals MVP, becoming the first player since seven-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo in the last season’s Philippine Cup to win both the Best Player of the Conference (BPC) award and the Finals MVP in the same conference.

Perez also became the first player since Scottie Thompson of Barangay Ginebra in the 2021-2022 Governor’s Cup to win the Finals MVP shortly after securing his first-ever BPC award.

Fajardo also made his presence felt with a double-double of 19 points and 12 rebounds in 40 minutes, while import Bennie Boatwright added 19 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists despite struggling with 8-of-24 shooting from the field.

There were other heroes for San Miguel.

Jericho Cruz and Chris Ross and also made consecutive three-pointers to fuel the Beermen’s comeback to the delight of a pre-dominantly San Miguel crowd.

Cruz added 12 points, Don Trollano contributed 10 points and Ross had nine points.

Veteran Paul Lee led Magnolia with 25 points, import Tyler Bey contributed 18 points and eight rebounds, and Ian Sangalang added 16 points.

It was another disappointiing finish for Magnolia, which led by nine points in with less than five minutes left before watching San Miguel stage a late-game comeback.

Down 88-95, Cruz secured an offensive rebound and made a putback after Ross missed a three-pointer, cutting the deficit to five.

Shortly after, Perez stole the ball and converted a lay-up off a bad pass by Lee to make it 92-95 with 2:52 left.

Lee’s three-pointer extended the Hotshots’ lead to six points, 98-92. But a layup by Perez and a three-pointer by Cruz cut the deficit to just one point, 97-98.

After Bey split his free throw, Ross’ three-pointer from the corner gave San Miguel a one-point lead, 100-99, with 1:27 remaining.

Magnolia was still in the thick of the fight after Aris Dionisio hit a three-pointer and Perez missed two free throws.

But Cruz grabbed the offensive rebound and converted one of his free throws, giving San Miguel a two-point lead with only one second left.

It was over after Dionisio missed a desperation shot at the buzzer.

The scores:

San Miguel (104) – Perez 28, Boatwright 19, Fajardo 19, Cruz 12, Trollano 10, Ross 9, Tautuaa 4, Enciso 2, Teng 1, Lassiter 0
Magnolia (102) – Lee 25, Bey 18, Sangalang 16, Jalalon 12, Barroca 11, Dela Rosa 9, Dionisio 7, Abueva 4, Tratter 0, Escoto 0.
Quarterscores: 22-26, 46-51, 73-82, 104-102.

The results:

Game 1 — San Miguel def. Magnolia, 103-95.
Game 2 — San Miguel def. Magnolia, 109-85.
Game 3 — Magnolia def. San Miguel 88-80.
Game 4 — Magnolia def. San Miguel, 96-85.
Game 5 — San Miguel def. Magnolia, 108- 98
Game 6 — San Miguel def. Magnolia, 104-102.
(San Miguel wins series, 4-2)