2018 PH club basketball in review: San Miguel Corp. flexes muscles in PBA, ABL

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 27 2018 06:36 AM | Updated as of Dec 27 2018 07:03 AM

It's as if anything San Miguel Corp. touched turned into gold in 2018. 

Bagging four championships in one calendar year — three in the PBA and one in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) — is a rare feat, demonstrating yet again why SMC is in a league of its own when it comes to supporting pro basketball clubs.

Here are the biggest stories in domestic club basketball this year:

S.M.C. GROUP NETS P.B.A. 'GRAND SLAM', A.B.L. TITLE

Magnolia, Barangay Ginebra and flagship club San Miguel Beer respectively copped the Governors' Cup, Commissioner's Cup and Philippine Cup titles.

For good measure, the food-and-beverage conglomerate backed Alab Pilipinas en route to the ABL crown.

Jonathan Cellona and George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

ALL-FILIPINO CHAMPION BEERMEN BACK '4' MORE

San Miguel Beer kicked off a banner year for its mother company by downing sister firm Magnolia in the finals to win the Philippine Cup in April, the Beermen's fourth straight and record-extending eighth all-Filipino trophy overall.

June Mar Fajardo went home with his sixth best player of the conference award, also a record.

Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

GINEBRA'S TITLE TURN IN COMMISSIONER'S CUP

Justin Brownlee returned to Barangay Ginebra, helping the league's most popular ball club defeat San Miguel 4-2 in the finals to win the Commissioner's Cup title in August.

While June Mar Fajardo won a seventh player of the conference award, Scottie Thompson bagged finals MVP.

Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

TRANSITION COMPLETE, AS MAGNOLIA WINS GOVERNORS' CUP

Magnolia welcomed its first championship in the post-James Yap era, thanks to efforts by player of the conference and new franchise cornerstone Paul Lee, and finals MVP Mark Barroca.

The Hotshots defeated Alaska in 6 games in December for their first title since their Grand Slam year in 2014.

George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

ALAB PILIPINAS HOISTS A.S.E.A.N. LEAGUE TROPHY

During the ASEAN Basketball League season, Alab Pilipinas became the de-facto national team, repaying a rabid following by beating Thai club Mono Vampire 3-2 in the finals to win the championship in May.

Led by Renaldo Balkman, Justin Brownlee, and finals MVP and 2-time local MVP Ray Parks Jr., Alab rose from the bottom of the standings all the way to the top. At one point, it lost its original corporate backer, but San Miguel swooped in to rescue the club in February and the squad never looked back.

Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

JUSTIN BROWNLEE, LOCAL BASKETBALL'S ADOPTED SON

Everywhere Justin Brownlee went in 2018 — whether he was with Ginebra or Alab Pilipinas — he brought along throngs of supporters with him. Never letting the adulation get in his head, he took the time to mingle with fans whenever he could and even once played a random pickup game on the streets.

He played nonstop for almost an entire calendar year, securing championships in the ASEAN Basketball League and the PBA Commissioner's Cup. That winning résumé and down-to-earth nature led some Philippine congressmen to file a bill seeking to naturalize Brownlee.

Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

RENALDO BALKMAN, P.B.A. BURY HATCHET

Five years since the PBA banned him for life for choking teammate Arwind Santos, Renaldo Balkman found his way back to the league, after commissioner Willie Marcial reversed the ruling in March.

Balkman has long regretted the incident, saying his stint with San Miguel Alab Pilipinas in the ABL was his way of redeeming himself. He rejoined San Miguel Beer in the PBA on May 19 as a replacement reinforcement, leading the Beermen all the way to the Commissioner's Cup finals, where they lost to Barangay Ginebra.

Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

TERRENCE ROMEO, CALVIN ABUEVA TRADED

In one year, Terrence Romeo changed addresses twice — first from GlobalPort to TNT in April, then from the KaTropa to San Miguel Beer in December.

Alaska also moved on from Calvin Abueva, also one of the most popular players in the league, sending the forward to Phoenix.

PBA Media Bureau

PACQUIAO LAUNCHES MAHARLIKA PILIPINAS LEAGUE

It took a while to get his organization off the ground, but Manny Pacquiao pulled it off by founding the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League and kicking off its first season in January.

Opening with 10 teams and Batangas as the inaugural champions, the league roster ballooned to 26 clubs from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, taking the sport to various cities around the country.

George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

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