After being limited to just 5 points in the second quarter on Wednesday, title No. 5 looked far-fetched for San Miguel Beer.
But the defending Philippine Cup champions showed their battle-tested grit, engaging worthy challenger Magnolia in a phone-booth exchange before hacking out a 72-71 in the deciding game of the all-Filipino finals on Wednesday.
“ ’Yung second quarter we scored just 5 points, pero hindi kami nag-panic,” San Miguel coach Leo Austria said.
“I told then it’s achievable pa. We’re down 13 points, let’s bring it to a single digit and we will be in the game. In the last 5 minutes we were able to control the game. It was a see-saw, a lot of thriller, but defense gave us this championship.”
Defense is not exactly San Miguel’s calling card, but in Game 7 when they needed to the Beermen locked the Hotshots down.
Following Alex Cabagnot’s fadeaway jumper that gave them the one-point lead, the Beermen did everything they could to prevent the Hotshots from scoring in the last 57 seconds.
And they succeeded.
“I salute Magnolia because they know how to beat San Miguel, but we also know how to win a game, especially a championship,” Austria said.
The Hotshots, who also lost in lopsided fashion to the Beermen in last year’s finals, refused to be pushed around this time, resorting to physical, punishing defense that tested June Mar Fajardo and co.
In a way, San Miguel gave Magnolia a dose of its own medicine to come away with the trophy.
“Ang sabi nga doon sa series pagka hindi kami naka-score ng more than 100 we will not win. But today we scored 72 and it turned out to be a winnable score (for us). Sabi nga ng mga coaches, defense wins championships and it happened tonight,” said Austria.
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