THE San Miguel Beermen will be aiming for their 20th title while the Alaska Aces seek for their 14th crown when they collide starting on Wednesday in the best-of-seven titular series of the 40th Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
Coach Leo Austria’s Beermen swept Talk ‘N Text, 4-0, in the semis to reach the Finals for the 31st time since joining the league in 1975.
The Aces, on the other hand, outlasted Rain or Shine, 4-2, in their series battle to clinch their 27th Finals stint since 1986.
The expected down-the-wire battle would be a matched-up between two Cebuanos—6’10” June Mar Fajardo and Dondon Hontiveros.
Incidentally both played for the same University of Cebu Webmasters during their collegiate days.
The 37-year-old Hontiveros fired five triples in the pivotal period in their 79-76 victory over the Elasto Painters in Game Six on Sunday, while Fajardo, who averaged 37 minutes with the Beermen, tallied 28 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and two blocks in their 100-87 win over the Tropang Texters in Game Four.
Both teams likewise are two of only four teams, which owned a rare Grand Slam. The Beermen did it in 1989 while the Aces followed suit in 1996. San Miguel Beer won a crown for the last time in 2011 Governor’s Cup under rookie coach Ato Agustin, whereas the Aces won its last title in 2013 Commissioner’s Cup during the time of then new coach Luigi Trillo.
“Mabait sa akin si Dondon kahit noon pa. Palagi akong binibigyan niya ng sapatos noong ako ay naglalaro pa sa UC,” said the three-year pro Fajardo of Pinamungahan, Cebu. Hontiveros, a native of Guadalupe, Cebu City, however, expressed respect for the reigning Most Valuable Player, saying he is humble and has a lot of potentials.
“Mabait si June Mar [Fajardo]. Nakita ko talaga nun na may potential siya kasi malaki siya at maganda ‘yung galaw,” said Hontiveros.