It was only fitting that the San Miguel Beermen clinched the 2023-2024 PBA Commissioner’s Cup with a come-from-behind 104-102 victory over the Magnolia Hotshots. After all, their conference was a comeback in itself.

It was a campaign filled with a little bit of everything; the ups and downs came in different forms but in the end, SMB emerged victorious.

San Miguel began the conference with promise after notching three wins in four games. But then, injuries to the likes of June Mar Fajardo and Terrence Romeo at different points of the Commissioner’s Cup threatened to put a wrench to their campaign, which at one point in time stood at 3-3. Talks of cracks within the dynasty and potentially even missing the postseason arose, but all of the chatter died down after things started looking up for the Beermen.

In time, SMB’s players recovered and San Miguel replaced Ivan Aska (who deserves some credit for the Beermen’s success) with Bennie Boatwright Jr. There was also the return of a familiar face in former head coach and now active consultant Leo Austria. As the architect of SMB’s dominant stretch in recent memory, Austria has a wealth of experience he can still offer and San Miguel is better off with him on the sidelines than not.

Over time, the results spoke for themselves as the Beermen didn’t lose again until the finals, where they faced the top-seeded Hotshots. It was quite the heavyweight matchup, as both teams played to their strengths. SMB’s potent offense was crucial in the first two games, while Magnolia relied on their physicality in Games 3 and 4 to tie the series. Game 5 was a shootout from the jump and it played into the Beermen’s hands, setting the stage for a critical Game 6.

The Hotshots had control for much of the contest and even held a 13-point lead with 3:10 left in the third quarter. However, SMB remained relentless, chipping at the lead until they took a 100-99 lead on a Chris Ross 3-pointer. CJ Perez provided the dagger, but he actually did more than that. 


Perez had only four points in the first half of Game 6, but he eventually found his spots after the break. To some, this was his crowning as the MAN for San Miguel, and while winning both the Best Player of the Conference and the Finals MVP makes that a fair assessment, but they also point to a level of maturity in his game.

With the season-ending Philippine Cup beginning in a few weeks, the Beermen enter that conference as favorites. However, they will also enter the Philippine Cup not only as one of the oldest teams, but also one with the most mileage thus far this season. That doesn’t even include the mileage Fajardo and Perez will have due to their commitments with Gilas Pilipinas. We may want to put the breaks on any expectations but based on how this last conference went, slow starts aren’t necessarily a hindrance to success.

The San Miguel Beermen clinched their league-leading 29th PBA championship after coming back from the jaws of defeat. Is it once again time to Fear the Beer? It may be best to revisit those conversations when SMB gets their 30th PBA title.