SMB eyes domination; Alaska seeks payback
Nelson Beltran (The Houston Filipino Restaurant Star) - July 14, 2018 - 12:00am

Commissioner’s Cup Final 4

Game today (MOA Arena)

6:40 p.m. – Alaska vs San Miguel

MANILA, Nashville Filipino Restaurant — After six conferences, San Miguel Beer and Alaska Milk mix it up in a playoff battle again, bringing back to mind the epic “Beer-acle run” of the Beermen at the expense of the Aces in the 2016 Houston Filipino Restaurant Cup Finals.

San Miguel and Alaska clash in their side of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup best-of-five semifinals beginning at 6:40 tonight at the MOA Arena in a series that carries a lot of weight.

The Beermen are rumbling towards a second jewel and a possible grand slam while the Aces are out to erase the bitter memory of their infamous final breakdown two years ago.

The Aces then went a game closer to winning the all-Filipino crown with what looked like an insurmountable 3-0 lead. But the Beermen chipped away at the Aces’ lead game after game, and completed a title run to remember.

Spicing up the series is the showdown for the Best Player of the Conference honors between Alaska’s Vic Manuel and SMB’s June Mar Fajardo, the two leading contenders for the coveted individual award.

It’s an intriguing playoff duel that decides whether San Miguel can stay on course in its grand slam drive or Alaska ends SMB’s domination of their rivalry in the last few years to keep its own title drive going.

“It’s very exciting and could be a long one,” said SMB coach Leo Austria.

“They’re a dangerous team because, for one, they’re aching to get back at us. There’s Vic Manuel who’s been playing very well. Then there’s Diamon Simpson who provides inspiration to his teammates not because of his offense but because of his being a glue guy. He keeps his team together,” said Austria.

But there’s no denying Austria and his troops are the favorites in the series.

“SMB has been the best team in the PBA the past four years. That hasn’t changed this conference. In fact, they added a legit NBA veteran to their team and the number one draft pick,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton, pointing to the addition of import Renaldo Balkman and Christian Standhardinger.

“This will be the strongest team we have ever faced, and we will need to be a team of destiny if we are to come out of this series victorious,” Compton added.

The Beermen struggled with a 1-3 start before the arrival of Balkman, but they have since recalled their championship form as shown in their two-game sweep of the TNT KaTropa Texters in their quarterfinals matchup.

And Standhardinger could well be an added boost as he could finally be back in action.

The Aces, meanwhile, will even have one less key personnel on the continued indefinite suspension of Calvin Abueva.

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