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The last time the franchises of Petron Blaze and San Mig Coffee met in a PBA Finals was more than a decade ago, in the 2000 PBA Governors’ Cup championship series. Both teams carried different monikers back then, with Petron Blaze still known as the San Miguel Beermen and San Mig Coffee then labeled the Purefoods TJ (Tender Juicy) Hotdogs.
It was a great best-of-seven series characterized by pretty close games, especially Games One to Three, which were decided by an average of 4.3 points only. Incidentally, the Beermen won all of those first three contests en route to a 4-1 series triumph. That was the third Govs’ Cup title for San Miguel, and it was a successful defense of the crown they also held in 1999 at the expense of the Alaska Milkmen.
The twister-ish import Lamont Strothers teamed up with eventual Finals MVP Danny Seigle and Season MVP Danny Ildefonso to spearhead the Beermen in that conference. It was, in many ways, the peak of San Miguel’s dominance at the turn of the century. The 2000 Govs’ Cup was the franchise’s fourth in the previous five PBA conferences (missing just the 2000 All-Filipino title), coach Jong Uichico was then undefeated (4-of-4) in any PBA Finals, and, well, the two Dannys were clicking like crazy.
It’s interesting to see that, in the current conference, the still-glorious franchise is back in the thick of the title fight. Like Strothers and the two Dannys back in the day, a great combo of locals and a hardworking import will form the bulk of the backbone for Petron Blaze.
Elijah Millsap, the brother of 6-8 NBA power forward Paul Millsap, who recently signed with the Atlanta Hawks, has been on a tear for the Boosters. Millsap is currently norming 27.2 points, 11.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.2 steals, and nearly two triples an outing. He should be a nightmarish match-up for the opposing Mixers because of his shiftiness, athleticism, and range, and he would surely want to bring back some hardware to the States by winning a title here in Manila.
The former University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazer can also count on a ton of local support, especially from the likes of June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, and Alex Cabagnot. Fajardo, in particular, has been stellar since returning from his tour of duty with the Gilas Pilipinas national team. The man-child known as the Kraken is currently averaging 11.6ppg, 9.6rpg, and 1.6bpg while shooting close to 60% from the field. He is, in fact, the second most efficient player in the league (based on stats) right behind Ginebra’s LA Tenorio. Fajardo is carrying a 34.0 EFF rating, while Tenorio is just a little better at 38.8.
Santos and Cabagnot have been quite steady, too. The two quintessential Petron players are both in the Top 10 most efficient players in the conference, which is a big reason the Boosters topped the standings at the end of the single-round elims. Santos is pumping in 12.4ppg, 8.6rpg, 1.3bpg, and 1.1 spg, while Cabagnot is norming 12.6ppg, 4.6rpg, 4.2apg, and 1.1spg. Cabagnot is also shooting better than 40% from three-point area and has made 24 triples already. He is third in the league in three-point percentage and second overall in threes made.
The top marksman? His teammate, Marcio Lassiter. He has been on a roller-coaster ride in his young PBA career, but it seems this conference has really been his shining moment. As of now, the former Gilas stalwart is second overall in three-point percentage (46%) and has the most three-point makes in the conference (29 makes in 14 games). He is currently putting up 12.9ppg, 3.8rpg, and 1.0spg.
With so many weapons at his disposal, and most of them quite healthy, coach Gee Abanilla surely has a lot of flexibility to work with when it comes to attacking the Mixers. His squad is out to reclaim a title it last held in 2011, when Petron snuffed out Talk N Text’s hopes for an historic grand slam, and, by doing so, the Boosters should, indeed, cement their collective status as the nation’s top pro hoops club. (EFlojo)
Enzo Flojo is new here on the PBA site, but he has been writing about all things basketball for quite some time now. You can read more of his stuff on his nationally-recognized blog, HoopNut.com, on the college hoops site,Inboundpass.com, or you can follow him on Twitter — @HoopNut.
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