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Alaska, SMB rekindle old rivalry

BEFORE San Mig Coffee’s (now known as Purefoods) latest grand-slam feat, San Miguel Beer and Alaska were the last two teams to score a rare triple crown in one season and together, they established a league dynasty from the late 1980s to the 1990s.

They have also built a rivalry of their own, something which started in the mid-1990s when an up-and-coming Alaska squad was about to make its mark as the new dominant force in the PBA and snatch that greatness from San Miguel Beer, a rebuilding squad, whose veteran-laden crew was likewise battered with injuries.

From the late 1980s until mid-1990s, the Beermen won nine championships under head coach Norman Black and the team anchored on Samboy Lim, Hector Calma, Yves Dignadice, Ricardo Brown, and four-time MVP Mon Fernandez among others, went on to become the dynasty of the PBA.

They won the grand slam in 1989, becoming the first team since the Crispa Redmanizers to win the feat.

Their reign was disrupted by age and injuries to their key players and it came at a time when Alaska Milk established its own identity, which proved to be the benchmark of success of coach Tim Cone and his crew.

Since acquiring Jojo Lastimosa from Purefoods and getting an ace of a point guard in Johnny Abarrientos, and then trading Bong Alvarez for another Bong —Bong Hawkins—Alaska’s nucleus was developed and they became a very powerful force.

From 1991 until 2000, Cone and his wards won 10 championships capped by a triple crown in 1996.

In championship history, Alaska and San Miguel Beer met six times with the Aces winning four—the 1995 Third Conference, the 1998 All-Filipino and Commissioner’s Cup and the 2010 Fiesta Conference.

San Miguel Beer defeated Hills Brothers the first time they met in the 1987 Reinforced with Black as coach. It was the only time Alaska carried a different name other than the popular milk brand due to a labor dispute.

The Beermen waited 12 more years to finally put one anew over the Aces in the 1999 Governors’ Cup, under coach Jong Uichico.

Now, two of the league’s winningest franchises collide in the Philippine Cup finals and there are a lot of interesting storylines.

There’s Dondon Hontiveros, a long-time Beermen who was traded a few years ago, getting a chance to meet his former team for the first time.

There’s Alex Compton meeting his former coach Leo Austria in a coaching duel. Both of them were together with Welcoat during the early seasons of the Asian Coatings franchise.

There’s rookie Chris Banchero, formerly of San Migue Beer in the ABL, facing the squad which gave him a big break.

And of course, there’s also some bad blood going on between these two managements.

Alaska lost a lot of its key pieces—players and coaches alike—to SMB, and as an independent squad, Wilfred Uytengsu takes pride in facing a franchise that owns multiple teams in the PBA.

So sit back, everybody get ready. We’re in for a slam-bang finale.

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