San Miguel has unable to get back to the finals of the Commissioner’s Cup for almost two decades, but it ended that drought after beating Star, 109-102, in Game 4 of the 2017 Oppo PBA Commissioner’s Cup semis.
The last time the Beermen made the Commissioner’s Cup finals was in 2001, when they lost against Red Bull. The last time they won a championship in the second conference was in 2000. But now they finally have a chance to win the Commissioner’s Cup title that has eluded them for 17 long years. And if they do end up with a title this conference, they’ll be one step closer to a Grand Slam.
“(The Grand Slam) is not on our minds e,” said SMB coach Leo Austria after the victory. “We have to get into the finals and win a championship. You can never know what will happen. But for the fact that we’re given a chance, I’m sure the players are too eager to win this conference,” said Austria. “Being in the finals again, it’s a great opportunity for us.”
After dropping the series opener, the Beermen defeated the Hotshots three games in a row. And they mostly relied on their defense to get the job done.
Star has a great import in Ricardo Ratliffe. But San Miguel’s game plan after the Game 1 loss was to let Ratliffe get his points and limit the locals from producing. And that’s what they did all throughout the semis.
In the series-clinching game, the Beermen won despite losing the battle on the boards and in second-chance points. Why? Because they played great defense against Star’s backcourt players. Starters Justin Melton and Paul Lee only shot a combined 3-of-13, while the bench duo of Jio Jalalon and Mark Barroca went 8-of-19.
San Miguel also gave the Hotshots’ guards a tough time in running their offense, forcing Melton, Lee, Barroca and Jalalon to turn the ball over 12 times (Star in total had 19 errors), which translated to 30 points on the other end.
Austria commended his players for working hard on both ends, especially for applying defensive pressure against the Hotshots, whose offense usually comes from their backcourt.
Now they rest and wait for their finals opponent. Whether they go up against Barangay Ginebra or TNT, Austria knows his players are capable of stepping up to the challenge and are still motivated to win another title.
“If your team is hardworking, I think luck is always on your side. And I hope na mag-continue ito because of the hard work of these players na pinakita nila na they’re still hungry even though they’ve won a lot of championships in a span of eight conferences. You can see it tonight, how they played, makikita mo gusto nila manalo,” said Austria.
“I always depend on my players, they know how to win a championship. For me nakikita ko sa kanila, ayaw nila ibigay yung feeling ng nananalo ng championship.”