Back in Finals
Now with a shot at rewriting the history books of the PBA after getting an enemy that refused to die out of the way, San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria’s first thought was understandable enough.
“We need to rest,” Austria said Saturday night after a hard-fought 100-94 decision of Barangay Ginebra at jam-packed Cuneta Astrodome that put his Beermen in the Philippine Cup Finals for the fourth straight year and do something never been done before—win the league’s premier crown a fourth straight time.
“In the past five games, my starters have been playing at least 38 minutes. They deserve a rest,” he added after overextending the league’s most talented core led by reigning four-time MVP June Mar Fajardo.
And while his players get to cool their heels with the determination of a title series foe at least four days away, Austria will not be doing the same.
“We (he and members of the coaching staff) need to plan,” he explained as NLEX and Magnolia break a 2-2 tie Sunday at Ynares Center in Antipolo. “It’s tough trying to pick an opponent [for the Finals] because they (Road Warriors and Hotshots) both deserve to be there.
“What we have now is the luxury to prepare, being the first finalist,” he went on. “We have the chance to watch their [remaining] games.”
Fajardo scored 25 points, Marcio Lassiter added 23 and three others tossed in 11 or more for the Beermen, who battled the Gin Kings to 17 lead changes and six deadlocks before prevailing in a thrilling endgame for a 4-1 win in the best-of-seven series.
Japeth Aguilar played his guts out on the way to 32 points and Scottie Thompson churned out his second career triple double with 10 points, 16 rebounds and 16 assists.
It really took total team effort for the Beermen to dispatch the Kings, who played the entire series minus the 7-foot Greg Slaughter.
Ginebra did bungle an early 12-point lead, but came roaring back from as many as 11 points down early in the second half to keep their shot at stealing the game in the stretch.
“I knew right from the start that this would be a very tough game,” Austria said. “Ginebra played really hard.”
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