NEWCOMERS are now faced with a challenge. The upcoming 2022 PBA Philippine Cup Finals, according to San Miguel head coach Leo Austria, are a good opportunity for the new Beermen to demonstrate their value as a part of the new age that the illustrious baseball team is bringing in.
SMB, making its first Big Dance participation in three years and its first since the infamous “Death Five” era, advanced to the championship round after defeating Meralco in Game Seven of the semis on Wednesday night.
“That is an opportunity for them. That’s why they are in our team because we believe in them. It’s up to them to show kung bakit namin sila kinuha,” Coach Leo says just moments after their 100 – 89 win at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
San Miguel is transitioning from a time when the team’s 27 PBA championships were won in large part thanks to the play of June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot, and Chris Ross.
After the 2021 Philippine Cup, the Beermen traded Santos and Cabagnot in separate transactions, and that was when it all started. It took place months after the team lost to TNT in the semifinals, missing the all-Filipino decider for the second consecutive season.
Days after the start of Season 47 in June of last year, the squad also traded for Robbie Herndon from Converge in order to obtain the winger with excellent shooting ability.
San Miguel didn’t get off to the best start prior to Herndon’s arrival, losing to eventual finalist Bolts in the 2021–22 Governors’ Cup quarterfinals. However, over time, the team was able to refine things, particularly chemistry.
Now this, a spot in the Finals after a convincing victory over the club that caused them grief in two of the previous three conferences. And Austria is aware that the new players want to take home a ring. They must decide how to take advantage of the opportunity, thus.
“After all, ‘yung mga players na ito ay gustong mag-champion eh. Kailangan ma-motivate pa rin sila ng importance of winning a championship,” said the multi-titled mentor, “Kung second place ka, hindi ka maaalala ng mga tao.”
(After all, these players want to be champions. They still need to be motivated by the importance of winning a championship,” said the multi-titled mentor, “If you come in second place, people won’t remember you)
Fajardo is pleased with the group for making it this far and is now one of those in charge of directing the development of the modern Beermen. In addition, they are all committed to reclaiming the Perpetual trophy from their longtime adversaries TNT.
“Proud ako sa mga teammates ko. Nag-step up lahat, lalo na sa game na ‘to. Sana tuloy-tuloy hanggang Finals,” said the six-time MVP, who starred in the Game Seven victory with 29 points and 14 rebounds.
“Pagdating sa finals, alam naman nating lahat na hindi ganun kadali manalo ng championship. Pero gagawin namin lahat para makuha ‘yung goal. Alam naman namin lahat na hindi imposible ‘yun.”
(I am proud of my teammates. Everyone stepped up, especially in this game. Hopefully it will continue until the Finals,” said the six-time MVP, who starred in the Game Seven victory with 29 points and 14 rebounds.
“When it comes to the finals, we all know that winning the championship is not that easy. But we will do everything to get the goal. We all know that is not impossible.)