MANILA, Philippines – The Alaska Aces overcame a career game from reigning back-to-back MVP June Mar Fajardo, leaning on a balanced team effort for a hard-earned 103-97 win over the San Miguel Beermen in the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday, Decembe 16 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Despite battling Alaska's fierce and relentless double teams, Fajardo still amassed 43 points on 13-of-20 field goals and made all but one of his 18 free throw attempts in over 38 minutes.
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo, who surpassed his previous career-high of 36 points, also had 20 rebounds, 3 assists, two steals, and two blocks but his effort was for naught against the combined endeavors of the Aces.
Veteran bigman Sonny Thoss banged bodies with Fajardo and led the team with 18 points and 5 rebounds.
Chris Banchero and Calvin Abueva contributed 17 points each off the bench with Abueva adding 11 rebounds for the double-double together with 5 assists, 3 steals and a block.
Vic Manuel chipped in 12 markers including the emphatic go-ahead one-handed jam off a JVee Casio find, giving Alaska the lead for the last time, 95-94, with 1:11 left to play.
Cyrus Baguio and RJ Jazul had 10 and 9 points, respectively, for Alaska, which tied Rain or Shine for second place at 8-2 as the elimination round nears conclusion.
Fajardo didn't have much of the usual offensive support from the rest of the Beermen.
Alex Cabagnot registered 19 points and 5 assists while Arwind Santos was the last Beerman in double figures with 10 markers and 7 rebounds, shooting just 4-of-14 from the field all night and two-of-9 from long range.
San Miguel Beer sorely missed the deadly shooting of guard Marcio Lassiter, who was out of rhythm after missing 10 days of practice as he tended to his newborn child. Lassiter played just close to 15 minutes and did not make the scoreboard as he missed all 5 of his attempts.
The Beermen also had to deal with the ejection of Ryan Araña early in the game.
Aranã was automatically tossed when he slapped with a flagrant foul penalty 2 due to an elbow in Abueva's face as they jockeyed for rebounding position to end the opening period.
The defending champions overturned a 12-point deficit early in the fourth as Ronald Tubid buried a corner triple to tie things up at 87 with under 3:40 remaining.
Chris Lutz, who had 8 points, hit a baseline jumper with 1:22 left that briefly shifted the lead to San Miguel, 94-93. But that was the last the Beermen would score as they failed to find Fajardo in the post inside the final minute.
A defensive lapse 11 seconds later freed up Manuel underneath the basket as Casio lobbed a pass to him for the wide open dunk.
Abueva followed that up with a pair of free throws as Santos missed a 3-pointer and Alaska nailed more charities to seal the win.
The Beermen, which saw their 7-game win streak snapped on a stormy Wednesday night, lost only their second game this conference and still sit atop the standings with a 9-2 record to end the eliminations.
Alaska (103): Thoss 18, Abueva 17, Banchero 17, Manuel 12, Baguio 10, Jazul 9, Menk 6, Casio 5, Baclao 2, Dela Cruz 2, Dela Rosa 2, Exciminiano 2, Eman 1, Hontiveros 0.
San Miguel (97): Fajardo 43, Cabagnot 19, Santos 10, Lutz 8, Tubid 6, Espinas 5, Heruela 2, Omolon 2, Ross 2, Arana 0, De Ocampo 0, Lassiter 0, Reyes 0.
Quarter scores: 16-19, 40-37, 74-64, 103-97.