Alaska will try to secure its 15th overall title when it battles reigning champion San Miguel Beer in Game 5 of the Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Philippine Cup best-of-seven finals today at the Araneta Coliseum.
The game was set at 7 p.m.
After losing Game 4 (104-110) in overtime on Sunday, Aces head coach Alex Compton admonished his wards to play smart to finally close the series and win the crown.
Alaska is currently leading the series 3-1.
“Our execution was poor last Sunday. It’s us not being smart with the basketball and it is not easy to sweep everybody,” said Compton.
Alaska’s power forward Vic Manuel will lead his team anew together with Calvin Abueva, Jayvee Casio, Chris Banchero, Sonny Thoss, Dondon Hontiveros, Crus Bagio and RJ Jazul.
“I expect a great game again in Game 5. I believe we have made some good adjustments and that our guys are focused and ready to compete at the highest level for 48 minutes or more tomorrow,” added Compton.
After losing Game 1 (91-100), Game 2 (80-83) and Game 3 (75-82), the Beermen finally won Game 4 averting a four-game sweep by the Aces.
Gabby Espinas, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross were instrumental in that victory.
The comeback of two-time Most Valuable Player, the 6-foot-10 June Mar Fajardo, however, remains uncertain. Fajardo recently bagged his fourth overall Best Player of the Conference trophy and his third straight in the Philippine Cup.
“Tomorrow (Wednesday), I will join the team warm up but there’s no any assurance if I will be allowed to play,” Fajardo told The Manila Times via text message. “I hope I can play well.”
He averaged 26.7 points, 15 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game during the elimination round. Fajardo also registered 31.3 points, 15.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks during six games in the best-of-seven semifinals against Rain or Shine.
Espinas posted 21 points plus 14 rebounds, while Cabagnot and Lassiter scored 16 and 21 points, respectively. Ross, for his part, had a near triple-double posting 11 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists for the Beermen during Game 4.
San Miguel Beer forward Arwind Santos finished with 11 points, including a crucial basket in the dying seconds, plus 12 rebounds.
“I told the players to keep playing tough. We will just do our best offensively and defensively. As what I’ve said, miracle is just around the corner,” said San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria. “I’m hoping we get the momentum. We have to show them the heart of a champion.”