Now or never | Inquirer Sports

Now or never

With playoff stint in peril, Beermen look to make their move starting with Road Warriors
/ 05:40 AM July 05, 2019
Chris McCullough

Chris McCullough practices with the San Miguel Beermen. Photo by Denison Rey A. Dalupang/INQUIRER

With 25 PBA titles and several records under its belt and coming off another overpowering campaign in the league’s most prestigious conference, it’s hard to think that a franchise like San Miguel Beer will be under the harsh spotlight of assessment.

And for the first time in a long while, the Beermen are groping for answers.


Coach Leo Austria feels he has addressed the problem going into their final four games, which the Beermen need to sweep to avoid complications of making it past the Commissioner’s Cup eliminations and keep talk of the franchise’s second Grand Slam going.

“We actually know how to win, especially in tough situations,” said the tactician behind the biggest comeback story in league history. “Whenever you lose, your morale understandably dips. [But] the morale is a bit better [now] because of ‘certain changes.’”


The San Miguel mentor didn’t need to expound on that on Tuesday, because just across him was Chris McCullough, a 24-year-old NBA first-rounder who the Beermen hope could help take them out of the slump they’re in.

Questions on whether the Beermen are capable of making the next round—and if McCollough is the right guy for them—get some answers starting on Friday when they slug it out with also-ran NLEX at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay at 7 p.m.

The Beermen put an end to the Charles Rhodes era in a desperate move to salvage this campaign.

“All we need to do is get to the playoffs. I think from there on, things are going to be different,” Austria said.

The last time the Beermen missed the playoff was in the 2014 edition of this tournament, and Austria thinks that they can turn things around with McCollough and a sense of urgency creeping in.

San Miguel is not the only team that will turn to a new reinforcement on Friday, as Blackwater, which is running fourth, turns to Staphon Blair, its third choice, to help arrest a two-game skid.

But Blair would have to be super as the Elite will be tackling red-hot Magnolia in the 4:30 p.m. game.

“Hopefully, our new import can help us big time,” Blackwater coach Aries Dimaunahan said of Blair, who comes in as a replacement for Alex Stepheson, who led them to a 5-1 record.

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TAGS: Basketball, Beermen, Leo Austria, PBA Commissioner’s Cup, San Miguel Beer
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