Heartbreaking title victory
By Jesus A. Garcia Jr.
WE watched how the powerful San Miguel Beermen escaped with a heartbreaking victory over the ‘never give up’ Alaska Aces last Wednesday night to earn their 20th championship tiara in the PBA since they entered the professional league in 1975. Up to the last two minutes, nothing could be heard talking among my friends, relatives and I as we watched until the final buzzer sounded, with the strong spirited Beermen prevailing, 80-78.
The Beermen started hot in the first quarter with the trio of Arwind Santos, June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lasiter to outdistance the enemy by nine points, 21-12. The lead expanded to 21 markers in the second period, 48-27, at the expense of quartet Fajardo, Santos, Alex Cabagnot and Ronald Tibid that stunned Aces fans. As in the past, Aces fans predicted Alaska would recover again, and it came true. The ‘never-give-up’ Aces engineered a 32-14 burst in the third period to yield by just three points, 59-62.
The Aces fans naturally became alive, confident that the Aces will even do better in the fourth juncture for the victory. Well, they were right and also were wrong.
The Aces led by Banchero and Cyrus Baguio seized their first lead, 70-68, 5:33 minutes remaining. But with just under one minute left with the Aces leading by two points, 78-76, Beermen’s Santos converted a trey to recapture the front, 79-78, 43.7 ticks left and never looked back to win by a mere two-point, 80-78. I and former LNU head coach Angel Gumarang were wrong to predict an Aces win. So, nobody is perfect.
I believe Aces’ Calvin Abueva was the culprit for the fall. He missed nine of his 14 free throws which I thought was very unusual being a professional cager. If he only made 50% of those 14 free throws, the game would have ended differently. We have seen a lot of basketball games in the world how free throws made and unmade teams, especially in the dying seconds of the match.
The memorable one was the 2002 Busan Asian Games when Olsen Racela missed both the two important free throws in the semi-final match against South Korea. Philippines was leading by just two points, 68-66, 23 seconds left and with Racela carrying the ball was fouled but Racela unfortunately missed the two charity shots that could have been the insurance basket.
In the subsequent play, South Korea converted a three-point shot at the wing to win the semifinal match. But South Korea lost the gold medal game against China. That’s history.
* * * *
You might not read my piece next week as I’m enplaning for Texas to visit my relatives (father side), my cycling friends in Houston, San Diego and San Jose, California and especially my twins in Dallas who both just passed the NCLEX Texas state board of nursing. I’ll be out of the country for at least three months. I hope to contribute some sports news and notes about Pangasinan sporting events in the places I go to visit. Yes, despite the distance from home, they still play basketball and cycling regularly. I saw this every time I visited them.
* * * *
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” ISAIAH 56: 7