MANILA, Philippines – When Chris Ross was recognized as Finals MVP in the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup, after serving as the spark of San Miguel's "Beeracle," the defensive-minded point guard said he believes his entire team deserved the honor.
On Sunday, as he earned the award for the second consecutive All-Filipino Conference, Ross again made a similar wish.
"I was hoping they would give out five MVPs," said Ross, who was San Miguel's anchor in their five-game victory over Barangay Ginebra that allowed them to complete a "three-peat" of All-Filipino Cup titles.
Ross had been spectacular all throughout the series, making Ginebra pay for leaving him open with timely three-pointers, while still fulfilling his primary role of playmaker and making life difficult for Ginebra's guards.
In their 91-85 win in the title-clinching Game 5, Ross controlled the contest on both ends, as he finished with 12 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, and six steals. Several of his takeaways came in a crucial fourth-quarter stretch that turned what had been a one-point lead, 70-69, into a nine-point cushion, 81-72.
"I actually didn't play too well in the fourth," Ross said. "I left my man a few times, and LA (Tenorio) hit a couple of threes. I was mad at myself, but my teammates had my back."
"We made enough stops at the end and we got the rebound and we were able to finish those guys off," he added.
Ross stressed that although he got the individual plum, the championship was a result of a "total team effort," starting from superstar center June Mar Fajardo.
"We all benefit from his greatness," said Ross. "All the attention he gets? It all just trickles down, man. Arwind (Santos) spaces the floor for us. Marcio (Lassiter) spaces the floor for us. Alex (Cabagnot) makes the plays."
"It's not just me," he stressed. "As I said, I feel like all five of us should have gotten MVP. We played really great team basketball."
Still, there can be no doubt that Ross' tremendous effort was crucial to San Miguel. His impact was made clear early in the fourth quarter, when – after Ginebra's Mark Caguioa grabbed a rebound off a missed shot by Fajardo – Ross came up with a steal against "The Spark," and assisted on an and-1 play for his teammate.
Midway through the fourth frame, he had key steals against Joe Devance, which led to transition buckets for his teammates.
"He is a fighter," SMB coach Leo Austria said of Ross. "He has a lot of things to prove, and he wants to win."
"I have to give credit to Chris Ross. Makikita mo sa kanya – he keeps on telling me, 'Coach, we will win.' Once na narinig ko sa kanya 'yun, I'm confident," he added.
Ross made sure his coach's confidence would not be in vain, and in doing so, etched his name once again in San Miguel Beer history.
"I just love the playoffs. I love the finals. I love the lights, man and I like playing in front of crowds like that. It means something," he said. "Not saying that the elims don't mean anything, but, you make your name on the playoffs and in the finals."
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