Manuel powers Alaska past Fajardo-less San Miguel in Game 1
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) — Vic Manuel tied his career-high 24 points and the Alaska Aces outlasted the June Mar Fajardo-less San Miguel Beermen, 100-91, to take Game 1 of the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup best-of-7 Finals on Sunday, January 17 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Manuel, Alaska's quiet leading scorer all conference, came off the bench and uncorked 14 points in the fourth quarter alone, as the Aces bucked another one of their notorious slow starts to outscore the beermen, 34-16, in the final frame.
Manuel also had 5 rebounds, two steals and a block.
"I really thought they handled us most of the game," admitted Alaska coach Alex Compton. "I didn't like the way we were playing."
Guards Cyrus Baguio and Chris Banchero contributed 16 and 15 points, respectively. Banchero added 8 rebounds and 3 assists.
Calvin Abueva had a double-double of 12 markers and 13 boards off the bench. The 27-year-old was the top rebounder of the game and led the Aces to a lopsided 48-28 edge on the boards.
Those 28 rebounds of San Miguel are a record low, according to statistician Fidel Mangonon III, in the PBA Finals and for the franchise, which sorely missed the 14.9 rebounding average of the injured 6-foot-10 Fajardo.
The San Miguel center was not present for Game 1 as he was rested after suffering a knee injury in Game 6 of San Miguel's semifinals tussle against Rain or Shine.
Head coach Leo Austria said Fajardo's status is day-to-day and although the injury is not serious, there is still some recurring swelling and they don't know when he might return to the series.
"I think this whole series will have to be a game of rapid adjustments," Compton said of Fajardo's uncertain situation. "We don't actually know how they're gonna play without June Mar."
The defending champions led for most of the contest until the Aces tied the game with under 3 minutes remaining, 86-all, on Manuel's free throws as he forced Arwind Santos to foul out.
Abueva then gave Alaska the lead in the ensuing play with an aggressive move to the basket.
Alex Cabagnot knotted the count for the last time at 91 with under two minutes to go, before Manuel answered with a basket and dished an all-important assist to JVee Casio for the booming, game-sealing 3-pointer, 96-91, with 1:12 left.
"I always love our team's resilience, they keep going," Compton said of his team, who also came back from a 12-point deficit early the fourth.
"I don't really believe in making a big deal out of one game in a 7-game series. We won Game 1 last year of the all-Filipino and that didn't turn out so well for us, hopefully we can change our fate this time. But it was good to win. I'd much rather be up 1-0."
Cabagnot led the Beermen with 20 points, two rebounds and 4 assists while Marcio Lassiter went 6-of-12 from the field for 19 points.
Yancy De Ocampo, who started in lieu of Fajardo, finished with 18 markers and 7 boards while Ronald Tubid added 13 markers.
Gabby Espinas chipped in 11 points and 8 rebounds but the Beermen, who still dominated without their MVP, missed the offense of Santos who had a conference-low 4 points and 5 rebounds on a miserable two-of-11 shooting.
Alaska had a 75-17 advantage in bench points while San Miguel converted 25 fastbreak points compared to its foe's 17.
Game 2 of this series is on Tuesday, January 19 at 7 pm. (SCHEDULE: 2016 PBA Philippine Cup Finals – Alaska vs San Miguel)
Alaska (100): Manuel 24, Baguio 16, Banchero 15, Abueva 12, Exciminiano 6, Jazul 6, Casio 5, Hontiveros 5, Menk 5, Thoss 4, Baclao 2, Dela Rosa 0.
San Miguel (91): Cabagnot 20, Lassiter 19, De Ocampo 18, Tubid 13, Espinas 11, Arana 4, Santos 4, Ross 2, Lutz 0, Semerad 0.
Quarter scores: 11-4, 42-38, 75-66, 100-91.
PBA Finals: Alaska coach Alex Compton talks about their Game 1 win
PBA Finals: Alaska coach Alex Compton talks about their Game 1 winPosted by Jane Yvette Bracher on Sunday, 17 January 2016