After a beautifully-executed three-on-one fastbreak play by Alaska which pushed the lead to 84-71 early in the fourth, it began to look like Game 4 was over.
The Aces side were already up on its feet, chanting “A-las-ka” in chorus in anticipation of a championship celebration. Players were ecstatic on the bench, exchanging high-fives and waiting for such moment.
But it didn’t arrive just yet.
Instead of letting the game slip away and give up a sweep — something which never happened to the San Miguel franchise in a finals series — the Beermen battled back, roaring with a sense of character and togetherness to steal the win, 110-104 in overtime.
Turnovers hounded the Aces throughout the fourth period, and succumbed to the gallant fightback of the Beermen.
A Cyrus Baguio triple at the end of regulation sent the game to extension and gave new life to Alaska, but San Miguel continued its onslaught to run away with a momentous win.
The Aces are wary of how much confidence and momentum a single win shall give the Beermen, which makes it even more disappointing for them to have Game 4 stolen away.
“Sobrang nakakahinayang talaga. Akala namin sa amin na, tapos biglang ganoon. Kasi nga nakuha na ng San Miguel yung rhythm nila eh. Sa Game 5 dapat maging aggressive kami na walang halong gigil. Maging composed lang kami,” Vic Manuel said in dismay.
“Siguro nga nanggigil kami. Medyo nagkumpiyansa na at nagrelax. Akala namin sa amin na. Tapos gumanda rin depensa ng San Miguel.”
The Beermen outscored the Aces 39-20 to end the match, and had five players scoring in double-digits to fuel the victory.
Alaska did not start flat in the game, and in fact led for 45:28 of the 53-minute contest. Such control of the game, however, may have taken its toll towards the end as the Aces failed to close out the match with the players getting ahead of themselves.
“I did not sense anything lazy from our guys. I felt they were gigil, they were so fired up, which happens sometimes,” Aces head coach Alex Compton said.
While Compton did not say anything about San Miguel’s defense directly, the Aces may have been rattled by the Beermen’s tenacity, as he mentioned about bad execution and being unable to protect the leather.
“I don’t think our focus stayed. We gave up too many layups and open shots. It’s a testament to their character. They played great. They really did. They deserved it,” he said.
“I thought our execution was poor again, we had 21 turnovers and a lot is really just us not being smart with the basketball. We have to be better if we want to win on Wednesday.”
Compton added such a victory by the Beermen was a testament to the team’s championship-level attitude, despite the adversity the team had to face with the absence of June Mar Fajardo.
“I said it wouldn’t be easy. San Miguel showed what I thought of their character tonight. There’s a reason why it’s a series. I don’t know if you thought I was kidding and people were saying, ah, sweep, but it’s a tough team with a bunch of winners that’s well-coached,” Compton shared.
“It’s not easy to sweep anybody. We just want to come out of the series winning a title. It’s not gonna be easy.”
Alaska remains ahead in the series with a commanding 3-1 lead, but the reality still stands: the Aces have not won a championship in three years. They may be up but they have not closed the series just yet, and it means they have accomplished nothing thus far.
And the gut check is to close the series out and win it all.
“Sa next game, dapat mas magcompose kami tsaka hindi magrelax basta-basta. Alam naman natin ang San Miguel ang lakas ng lineup nila and anytime kaya nila makabalik sa ganoong game. Siguro mas may pasensya dapat kami sa execution namin, iwasan naman ang turnovers namin. Yun siguro ang naging problema,” Manuel said.
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