MANILA, Philippines -- San Miguel head coach Leo Austria could not hide his relief and elation on Monday after the Beermen finally grabbed their first win inside the PBA bubble by holding off TerraFirma, 105-98.
"Thank you! Finally! Andito na uli ako," Austria said to open his post-game press conference at the Angeles University Foundation Gym in Angeles City.
The Beermen entered the PBA bubble with a 1-0 record, thanks to their win over Magnolia back in March, when the Philippine Cup opened at the Araneta Coliseum. But heading to Monday's game against the Dyip, they had dropped back-to-back games in the restart -- including a costly 107-88 loss to TNT Tropang Giga.
That saw star guard Terrence Romeo suffer a dislocated shoulder that forced him to exit the bubble, ruling him out for the rest of the tournament. It was another blow to an SMB team that was already missing reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo due to a leg fracture.
"I thought na it will be a long time eh, because you know what happened to our team," said Austria.
But his players responded with a strong effort against TerraFirma, as five Beermen reached double-digits led by Mo Tautuaa who had 25 points. Veteran forward Arwind Santos had 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Paul Zamar and Von Pessumal combined for 28 points.
San Miguel led by as much as 14 points in the game but could not quite put the Dyip away. TerraFirma was still within five points midway through the fourth quarter before baskets by Tautuaa and Marcio Lassiter kept the Beermen in control.
Austria believes that pride played a factor as his players did not want to go down 0-3 in the bubble.
"This win is really important because you're talking about the morale," he said. "So if we lose this game, so it's really hard to recover because we're up to strong teams in the next few games and we have a hectic schedule going to the end of the month."
"Luckily, we're able to pull a very important win para sa amin. And then, I'm so thankful to the players, because of their sense of urgency," he added.
He also expressed his gratitude to the San Miguel management, who stood by him and the team after their poor start in the bubble.
"I'm so thankful because of the support of the management, especially boss Alfrancis Chua and then sir Robert (Non)," said Austria, referring to the San Miguel sports director and their team governor, respectively.
"They keep on communicating with us, and then, talagang blow by blow minomonitor nila ang game. Boss, thank you sa inyo, and I'm sorry for what I've done before, okay?," he added.
"Maybe siguro I'm so stressed with the game because I don't want to lose eh. But what can I do? I'm taking care of the players, so I'm trying to balance it. But thank you, boss. Andiyan lagi kayo sa likod namin."
Their 2-2 record puts SMB in the middle of the pack heading into a difficult stretch where they will play four games in a span of nine days.