MANILA, Philippines - Call the Indonesia Warriors the giant-slayers of the third AirAsia ASEAN Basketball League. And more importantly, champions.
Showing grit amid a furious rally by San Miguel Beer before a hostile crowd, the Warriors upended the top-seeded Beermen, 78-76, to capture the ABL crown at the Ynares Sports Arena yesterday.
Fil-Am Stanley Pringle (28 points, eight rebounds) and Finals MVP Evan Brock (15 markers, 16 boards) made life difficult for the Beermen all game, completing their heroics with a combined 13 points down the stretch as the Warriors completed a come-from-behind win to edge SMB in their best of three series, 2-1.
"I'm just overwhelmed with pride for my guys. We've stuck together all season long," said coach Todd Purves, a former youth football coach who captured his first basketball title to lace his coach-of- the-year plum in the league.
The Warriors dropped the first game of the series, 83-86, but rebounded with a huge 81-61 rout in the second game at home to force the decider. On the way to the finals, they swept their No. 2 seeded semis rivals, the Phl Patriots, 2-0, thus completing their domination of the Philippines' squads.
Red and white confetti showered the floor, balloons of the same color fell from the rafters as the Warriors whooped it up at the venue where jerseys of SMB’s greatest players in the PBA – Allan Caidic, Olsen Racela, Mon Fernandez, Yves Dignadice, Hector Calma and Samboy Lim – silently hung.
The Warriors, with Pringle doing the most damage, seized a 13-point lead, 70-57, going into the last 6:44.
But the Beermen, egged on by a huge crowd that included icon Robert Jaworski, unleashed one final stand and came to within 76-78, on a Duke Crews basket, 17.6 seconds left.
Despite a pair of missed free throws by Pringle and Brock, the Beermen failed to cash in on the opportunities, allowing the Warriors to escape with the clincher.
"We couldn't close it out tonight. They (Warriors) were the better team," said SMB coach Bobby Parks. "But I'm proud of the team; they showed character and fought until last second."
Duke Crews led the Beermen with 29 points and nine rebounds while Chris Banchero scored 16 markers with eight assists before fouling out. Nick Fazekas chipped in 11 points and 16 rebounds in the losing cause.