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Arwind Santos bails out SMB from disastrous collapse to hand team championship

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So San Miguel Beer won its epic Game 7 battle over Alaska to increase its championship collection to 20 and end a 14-year thirst for a Philippine Cup championship.

It was no doubt a classic, one for the books.

There were so many things written about the Beermen’s latest championship conquest about a week ago, but it’s time to give my take on how the winner-take-all match for the crown transpired.

The Beermen had Arwind Santos to thank – and they had to thank him big time.

Showing nerves of steel, the former King Tamaraw put on an MVP-type performance throughout the game. He capped his game-long brilliance with a clutch triple in the final 43 seconds of the game to put the Beermen back in the driver’s seat, 79-78, putting more pressure on the Alaska side.

After a few defensive stops and a desperation heave from JVee Casio that misfired, the Beermen held on to survive.

Survival was indeed the best way to describe San Miguel Beer’s win.

For the fourth time in the series, the Beermen squandered another big lead – a 23-point lead in the second period — and had to battle back from six points down in the final three minutes of the game.

Fatigue nearly took its toll on the Beermen.

Head coach Leo Austria gave his two MVPs, Santos and June Mar Fajardo, extended minutes. The 6-foot-4 forward had a short breather of about one minute and 20 seconds and played the rest of the game. The 6-foot-10 slotman, on the other hand, saw action for about 45 minutes.

There were stretches in the game where Austria could have given them ample time to rest what with the team already in control. His ploy of sticking with them was to make sure they had full control of the match, something which the Beermen failed to do and the game plan of giving them extended minutes nearly cost them the championship.

Knowing the Beermen were getting exhausted, Sonny Thoss attacked Fajardo’s defense and had success for several stretches. He finished the game with 15 points, most of them through some nifty moves inside the shaded lane while being defended by the Cebuano slotman.

Even Santos appeared tired.

That stretch bridging the third and final quarters was the best time to put both players on the bench and allow guys like David Semerad, Doug Kramer and the other gunners – Chris Lutz, Marcio Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot – to do their thing offensively.

As luck would have it, the Beermen got the breaks from Alaska’s miserable foul shooting that night.

The Aces missed more free throws than the ones they made. They shot 10-of-25 from the free throw line for a lethargic 40-percent clip. Alex Compton and his troops may have started shooting the ball more in practice, now that the Commissioner’s Cup is about to start in a few days.

Despite the mediocre shooting performance from the stripe, Alaska nearly stole the game and the Beermen found a savior in Santos, who was often criticized for taking a lot of three-pointers but went home a hero overnight after making the one that mattered most.

Throughout the series, Santos attempted 65 triples, making 19 of them. His total number of tries from beyond the arc could have been the total number attempted by any team in seven games – what more in a championship series where shot selection is given more importance.

But nobody blames a hero and for the Beermen, they should be thankful for having Santos, the Redeemer.

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