Long road to the crown | Inquirer Sports

Long road to the crown

Kings, Beermen see PH Cup duel going the distance
By: - Reporter / @cedelfptINQ
/ 01:24 AM February 23, 2017

Ginebra coach Tim Cone and San Miguel coach Leo Austria. PBA IMAGES

Ginebra coach Tim Cone and San Miguel coach Leo Austria. PBA IMAGES

Coming off semifinal battles that went the full route, San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra see their championship series going the same way as the league’s winningest team and most popular ballclub collide in a blockbuster PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven finals starting Friday at Mall of Asia Arena.

“I think we might play up to Game 7 again,” said Ginebra playmaker LA Tenorio yesterday. “As much as we want to make this a short series, I have a feeling this will go seven games again.”

“We’ll be ready for battle,” San Miguel guard Chris Ross said. “Game 1 to Game 7, we’ll be ready. We know they’re not gonna lay down, and we’re not gonna lay down either. It should be fun to watch.”

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The Gin Kings survived a bruising series with Star Hotshots last Tuesday, capping their comeback from a 0-2 deficit with an 89-76 decision in Game 7 to reach the finals for the second straight conference.

Just a day earlier, the Beermen dumped TNT KaTropa in a series that also went the distance.

That leaves the the league’s most popular team and the franchise with the most titles in the PBA disputing the Crown Jewel of Philippine basketball.

“It’s going to be a special series,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone, whose team has survived four do-or-die matches in the conference. “You have the most popular club in the country and you have the winningest team. It’s nice to get so much attention for this series.”

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But Cone believes his Gin Kings will be the heavy underdogs in the finals, even though the crowd darlings showed tremendous resiliency early in the playoffs where they entered as the seventh seed.

“We still have to figure out how to stop June Mar (Fajardo),” said Cone, referring to San Miguel’s three-time league MVP. “I’m scared because they have all the weapons.”

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“They’re going to be a handful for us, but we’re going to be ready for them,” said veteran Mark Caguioa, who was part of the Ginebra squad that beat San Miguel in the All-Filipino finals a decade ago.

Tenorio said the Beermen’s depth and firepower give San Miguel the edge in the series.

The Beermen have their sights set on collecting the Perpetual Trophy as a winner of three straight All-Filipino crowns.

“Even before the start of the All-Filipino (Conference), we always wanted to win the Perpetual Trophy,” said San Miguel skipper Arwind Santos in Filipino. “We’re all tired, but we’ll do everything to win it.”

“It’s a great achievement if we win it,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria.

Cone hinted that the Gin Kings, already without injured big man Greg Slaughter, might miss Joe Devance early in the series after the power forward struggled with a foot injury in the semifinals against Star.

Devance had been taking painkilling shots before and during games and Cone said it might do more damage on his prized forward in the long run.

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“It’s an incredibly courageous thing to do,” said Cone of Devance. “But it also kind of bothers me and we might rest him for a couple of games. I would expect him to play at some point in the series.”

TAGS: Barangay Ginebra, PBA Philippine Cup, San Miguel Beer

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