Amidst the sweltering heat at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum, the San Miguel Beermen came through and captured the 2019 PBA Commissioner's Cup title by blasting the TNT KaTropa, 102-90, Friday evening.
Down 2-1, San Miguel won three straight to clinch the midseason conference. The Beermen, the winningest franchise in PBA history, nabbed their 27th title, their fourth Commissioner's Cup crown, and coach Leo Austria's eighth.
The almost six decade-old building's air conditioning malfunctioned for most of the first half, but was resolved by halftime. Chris McCullough, who is set to play in South Korea next month, tallied 35 points, 13 rebounds, and two assists. Best Import Terrence Jones finished with 41, 12 boards, and two dimes for TNT.
It was a challenging title run for the Beermen, who got off to a rocky start in the conference. They lost five of their first seven games, which prompted team management to replace Charles Rhodes with McCullough. As the seventh seed in the quarterfinals, they overcame a twice-to-beat disadvantage against the NorthPort Batang Pier and barely won the deciding game.
After topping the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in four tough games in the semifinals, they dropped the opening game of the finals and were staring at a potential 0-2 hole before gutting out a double overtime win in Game 2.
"I don't have ill words to say about my team. They showed the true heart of a champion," Austria said in Filipino. "Losing was something we had to learn. It made us a tough team to beat."
Coming off a strong third-quarter run, San Miguel did not let their guard down as they continued to keep their opponents at bay and maintaining a double-digit lead.
The first quarter was a grind for both sides, as the teams combined to shoot a lowly 31% from the field perhaps. San Miguel emerged with the lead after the first 12 minutes, 26-19.
It was more of the same result in the second period, as TNT failed to find the shooting touch and was scoreless for almost six minutes towards the end of the first half.
San Miguel's lead in the second ballooned to as big as 14, 45-31, after fast break bucket by Chris Ross.
Ross' triple then gave his team their biggest lead of the game, a 19-point spread at the 5:47 mark of the third, 63-44. However, Jones and Jayson Castro helped reduce the deficit to 11, 74-63, by the end of the period.
Spitfire guard Terrence Romeo was named the PBA Press Corps-Honda Finals Most Valuable Player with averages of 14.8 points, 4.3 assists, and 2.3 rebounds
With the win, San Miguel is one step closer to obtaining the elusive Grand Slam, a feat they last achieved in 1989.
San Miguel 102 - McCullough 35, Fajardo 19, Standhardinger 18, Cabagnot 10, Romeo 10, Ross 7, Pessumal 4, Santos 0.
TNT 90 - Jones 41, Castro 16, Pogoy 13, Rosario 8, Heruela 6, Taha 4, Trollano 2, Washington 0, Reyes 0, D. Semerad 0, Casiño 0.
Quarterscores: 26-19, 45-35, 74-63, 102-90.
- San Miguel (5-7, 7th), is the lowest seed to win the Commissioner's Cup.
- Coach Leo Austria ties Chot Reyes for fifth-most titles.
- It is the ninth straight title for the SMC Group.