Remembering 2016, Part 3: BEERacle, SMB engineers Mother of all Hoops Comebacks

playmaker-2The San Miguel Beermen survived a gritty Alaska Aces squad 4-3 in the 2016 Philippine Cup last January to February, 2016, to become the first professional basketball team in the world to overcome 0-3 deficit and win a best-of seven series.

The Beermen lost their star center June Mar Fajardo during the last game of the semifinals and had to endure the first four finals games without him.

As it turned out, the rest of the crew needed to win just one game during his absence and that’s just what they did. They won game four to set-up for his return. Fajardo was back in action for game five and the Aces could not stop the Beermen from there as they march to their league-leading 22nd championship and record tying 6th Philippine/All-Filipino Cup title aside from establishing a first world record.

The San Miguel Beermen finished the elimination round with a 9-2 win-loss card, in a tie with the Aces but had to settle with second place due to inferior quotient. They, however, gained an outright semifinals berth.

They survived a physical Rain or Shine, 4-2, in the semis but momentarily lost June Mar Fajardo on a questionable box out play, which not only put a damper on San Miguel’s finals quest but also his availability during Gilas Pilipinas’ 2016 Olympic qualifier participation come July.

The Beermen promptly lost the first three games to be buried in a 0-3 hole in their seven game series. Then the good news trickled in. Fajardo’s injury is not that bad at all and he will be back in the series. They went on a tear from here on to accomplish what nobody else in the world had done.

The Beermen claimed game 4, 110-104, in overtime. They had to outscore the Aces by eight in the fourth and 12-6 in overtime to stay alive, with Fajardo still out of commission. The Aces learned the hard way that they bungled their best chance to win the series when they drop this one.

The Beermen got back their All-Star center in game 5 and went on to capture the game in another overtime game. The Beermen would need a 19-6 rout in the overtime period to topple the Aces in a game where Fajardo only played 16 minutes off the bench.

The Beermen again pulled out a late push in games six, a 33-23 fourth quarter gem, to send the series to a rubber match. Fajardo played 22 minutes, scored 16 points while pulling down seven rebounds to highlight his importance to the team.

Fajardo is back to his old self in game seven, finishing with 21 points and 15 rebounds in 29 minutes, and San Miguel cannot be denied the best comeback ever of a basketball team, added one more to their league-leading total all-time titles and tied their sister team, Star Hotshots, for the most Philippine/All-Filipino Cup titles. Their 22 total PBA titles are way up against the 14 of the Aces and the 13 of Star/Purefoods and the defunct Crispa franchise.

San Miguel is now the first professional basketball team, the NBA included, to win a series coming from a 0–3 deficit. They can be now talked in the same breath of only five other teams in US professional sports and two others in other parts of the world who did the trick, although none of them are basketball related.

Them and the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who won the American League Championship Series over the New York Yankees, were the only non-hockey teams to do such comeback.

(See related article: Keep the Faith, A Minor Miracle)

The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs against the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Finals, the 1975 New York Islanders over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Quarterfinals, the 2010 Philadelphia Flyers over the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Semifinals, and the 2014 Los Angeles Kings over the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Western Conference Quarterfinals were the National Hockey League teams to achieve the feat.

The KalPa over the Espoo Blues in the 2012 Liiga playoffs and the SKA St. Petersburg over the CSKA Moscow in the 2015 Gagarin Cup Western Conference Finals were the only other non-US teams to perform the comeback.

The Liiga, called the Finnish Elite League in English, is the top professional ice hockey league in Finland. The Gagarin Cup is awarded annually to the league playoff champion at the end of each Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) season. The KHL is widely considered to be the premier professional ice hockey league in Europe and Asia, and second in the world behind the NHL.

By: ARMANDO M. BOLISLIS

See earlier parts:
Remembering 2016: The year of the “Never Say Die”s and Drought Busters, Part 1
Remembering 2016, Part 2: Hidilyn Diaz ends four PH Olympic droughts
See next parts:
Remembering 2016, Part 4: Cavs overhauls a 1-3 hole to the 73-9 Warriors, ends 45 year drought
Remembering 2016, Part 5: Wala Nang Kangkongan, Ginebra Ends 8-year championship drought
Remembering 2016, Part 6: Green Archers shoots down Blue Eagles to break a tie with their bitter rival

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