#PBA2015 GOVS CUP FINALS PREVIEW: ALASKA ACES vs SAN MIGUEL BEERMEN - ONE MORE SHOT AT GLORY

It’s the final fight, the final series of the entire season, and familiar foes will slug it out in this one more shot, one last shot at glory. 

For the Aces, it will be all about payback as they lost to SMB in the 2014-2015 PHL Cup Finals. That was a painful defeat as they lost, 78-80, in Game 7. Coach Alex Compton and his wards, though, have the edge in the overall head-to-head against the Beermen throughout the season. They also swept their semis assignment, no less than the defending champion Hotshots. With Romeo Travis playing very well and locals like Calvin Abueva, Chris Banchero, and JV Casio stepping up, this “we not me” approach by the Aces is bound to give SMB fits.

As for the Beermen, it will all be about fulfilling the potential of their stacked roster and bouncing back after they didn’t even make the quarterfinals in the previous conference. With AZ Reid really playing at a high level and guys like June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter becoming nearly unstoppable, the odds look like they’re stacked in SMB’s favor. 


(images by Paul Ryan Tan/Sports5)



PHL Cup:
ALA beat SMB, 66-63 (elims)
ALA beat SMB, 88-82 OT (Finals)
SMB beat ALA, 100-86 (Finals)
ALA beat SMB, 78-70 (Finals)
SMB beat ALA, 88-70 (Finals)
SMB beat ALA, 93-88 (Finals)
ALA beat SMB, 87-76 (Finals)
SMB beat ALA, 80-78 (Finals)

COMM Cup:
ALA beat SMB, 107-100

GOVS Cup:
ALA beat SMB, 82-77 (elims)

Head-to-Head record this season: ALA 6 wins, SMB 4 wins


1. THE BEAST
- For ALA to really do a lot of damage in this series, Calvin Abueva will need to be his beastly self. It will be interesting to see how he goes up against former teammate Gabby Espinas, who has kinda sounded off a warning towards The Beast. If Abueva can somehow be a thorn in the Beermen’s side, the Aces should be in great shape. 

Govs Cup stats: 8.3ppg, 6.6rpg, 1.9apg, 39.8 FG%


2. OLDIES BUT GOODIES: BAGUIO & HONTIVEROS
- These veteran wingmen will definitely need to step up. They’ll be ranged against Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz, Ronald Tubid, and maybe even AZ Reid at the perimeter, so both Baguio and Hontiveros need to bring their A-game. Baguio needs to be aggressive in attacking the defense, while Hontiveros really has just two directives: get open and hit the three.

Govs Cup stats
Baguio: 9.2ppg, 2.3rpg, 2.2apg, 32.4 3pt%, 46.5 FG%
Hontiveros: 5.9ppg, 2.2rpg, 1.2apg, 1.2 triples pr game, 34.1 FG%


3. PRIMO POINT GUARDS: BANCHERO & CASIO
- The PG combo of Chris Banchero and JV Casio will probably have their hands full against SMB’s own impressive PG rotation featuring the explosive Alex Cabagnot and the versatile Chris Ross. If both Banchero and Casio can be aggressive and put up significant contributions, the Aces should be fine. 

Govs Cup stats
Banchero: 10.1ppg, 4.1rpg, 2.9apg, 1.0spg, 41.6 FG%
Casio: 9.9ppg, 2.8rpg, 2.6apg, 1.6 triples per game, 39.3 3pt%, 49.0 FG%


4. ALASKA: REBOUNDING PROWESS
- One interesting thing about the Aces is that, despite the fact they’re not the biggest team, they are maybe the best rebounding team out there. ALA is doesn’t grab the most rebounds per game, but they do have the highest average rebound differential out of all the teams. If ALA can continue ruling the boards, they will have a solid shot of winning. 

ALA Rebound stats:
Rebs per game: 49.1
Rebs allowed per game: 43.2
Average difference: +5.9 rebs per game for ALA
Romeo Travis - 12.9rpg
Calvin Abueva - 6.6rpg
Chris Banchero - 4.1rpg
Vic Manuel - 3.7rpg
Sonny Thoss - 3.3rpg


5. ALEX & ARWIND: SMB’S AA CONNECTION
- SMB’s AA connection composed of veterans Alex Cabagnot and Arwind Santos will be a crucial x-factor in this series. If Cabaggie can hit his outside shots, that will really put a lot of pressure on ALA’s guards, while Arwind’s defense, rebounding, and shooting will all be key factors in SMB’s chances of winning. 

Cabagnot conference stats: 9.8ppg, 4.0rpg, 5.5apg, 1.1spg, 1.5 triples per game, 36.1 3pt%, 36.8 FG%
Santos conference stats: 9.0ppg, 5.9rpg, 1.1 triples per game, 38.6 FG%


6. MARVELOUS MARCIO
- Lassiter has been solid this season as one of SMB’s top three weapons, and he was even better in the semis when he scored in the 20s and hit 5 treys per outing. ALA will need to keep him in check, especially when he slides into his favorite spots in those corners, else the former Gilas sniper burns them from rainbow country.

Elims: 13.9ppg, 3.7rpg, 2.4apg, 1.0spg, 2.6 triples per game, 46.0 3pt%, 46.0 FG%
Semis: 20.5ppg, 4.0rpg, 2.5apg, 1.3spg, 5.0 triples per game, 64.5 3pt%, 54.2 FG%


7. FAB FAJARDO
- It goes without saying that the reigning MVP will leave his mark in this series. Nobody on ALA’s team can really stop him one-on-one, so the Aces will have to put double or triple-teams on the Kraken or just roll the dice and give him single coverage. Nobody can stop Fajardo, but maybe ALA can slow him down.

Govs Cup stats: 17.8ppg, 11.6rpg, 1.2bpg, 66.5 FG%
Last game vs ALA: 12pts, 12rebs, 3blks, 4/7 FGs


8. SMB: OFFENSE IS THE KEY
- If rebounding is key for the Aces, the Beermen will rely heavily on their depth to be able to put up those points. SMB has some of the best shooting percentages in the league and they’re also 2nd overall in assists. That means that coach Leo Austria has an offense that is humming at the perfect time. It’s highly unlikely SMB’s offensive flow will hit a snag, so the Aces better batten down the hatches. 

SMB FG% - 46.3% (1st)
SMB 2pt FG% - 50.8% (2nd)
SMB 3pt% - 37.8% (1st)
SMB assists - 20.8 (2nd)                    


9. KEY MATCH-UP: TRAVIS VS REID
- Without a doubt, the match-up between imports Romeo Travis and AZ Reid will be one to watch. Both are arguably the leading candidates for Best Import this conference, and whoever is able to carry his team to the title should be an easy choice for that award. Right now, Travis seems to be the slightly better defender and rebounder, while Reid is more focused on lighting up the board with his scoring.

Travis stats: 24.0ppg, 12.9rpg, 3.6apg, 1.8spg, 1.2bpg, 37.0 3pt%, 52.2 FG%
Reid stats: 28.4ppg, 10.9rpg, 5.5apg, 1.2spg, 32.3 3pt%, 43.1 FG%


Premature Prediction: The Aces are playing really well, and they seem deeply motivated to pay SMB back for that painful loss in the PHL Cup. This series will be tight and long, but I have Alaska winning it in 7.


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