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Endgame

It’s a fight to the finish as SMB, Magnolia clash for prized league jewel
/ 05:05 AM May 15, 2019
June Mar Fajardo Beermen PBA Finals

Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

This may be the exact blueprint of Magnolia for the PBA Philippine Cup: Keep pushing the championship series as far as it can and keep it as close as possible for a shot at winning it in the end.

The Hotshots have been doing that thus far winning three games in the best-of-seven series by an average of 3.7 points. Contrast that with the Beermen, who have an 11 ppg average winning margin after their 98-86 Game 6 victory that forced the battle for the league’s premier crown into a no-tomorrow match.

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“We just want to have a shot in the end,” coach Chito Victolero has always said.

And the end is here, with the Hotshots having a crack at stopping a dynasty dead on its tracks.

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In a series that has seen practically everything—including an Avenger-costumed fan running into the court—Magnolia takes on defending champion San Miguel Beer on Wednesday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum in an expectedly classic Game 7.

Game time is at 7 p.m.

There are all sorts of trivia to pick from each time this type of a knockout game for the title presents itself.

San Miguel Beer, for example, has a 6-5 record in Game 7s, according to league statistician Fidel Mangonon III. The Beermen are 3-1 in Game 7s in the all-Filipino, including that historic battle from 0-3 down against Alaska.

The Hotshots, meanwhile, have lost all three Game 7s in an all-Filipino conference.

But trivia means nothing in a game where will mostly dictates the outcome.

“They always say that a decider in any series is a player’s game. It’s going to come down to who wants it more,” said veteran Rafi Reavis, who has played seven career Game 7s in the Finals.

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Plus, the Hotshots have done a good job in willing themselves to this point, gaining a headstart in the series and never relinquishing the lead—a fact Beermen coach Leo Austria acknowledges.

“I just hope we could score two straight wins over [Magnolia],” Austria said. “It has never happened this series.”

What San Miguel Beer has done is win a game with its defense. The Beermen’s Game 6 victory was the first time in the series that they won while scoring under 100.

“Defense wins championships, as great coaches would say. We know that when it comes to offense, we’re the first or second-ranked team. But we can’t rely only on that,” Austria added.

The Beermen hope their defense will earn them a fifth straight all-Filipino crown.

“[W]e have a good chance to grab [the title] again,” Austria said.

June Mar Fajardo, who paced San Miguel with 23 points, will again be the focal team of both squads tonight. For the Beermen, it will be an attempt to maximize the reigning five-time MVP by camping shooters in the perimeter to punish double teams at the post.

The Hotshots, meanwhile, will try to delay entry passes and cut off kickouts.

“Experience will barely matter this time,” San Miguel veteran forward Arwind Santos said in Filipino. “It’s going to be about effort and aggressiveness and how you’re going to bring it into the game.” —DENISON REY A. DALUPANG

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TAGS: Baskteball, Magnolia, PBA, PBA Philippine Cup, SMB, Sports
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