Losing start in Commissioner’s Cup only made San Miguel tougher, says Austria
MANILA, Philippines—San Miguel isn’t used to losing, especially in the Leo Austria era.
Since Austria took over the team in 2014, the Beermen has won eight championships, lost in just one finals series, and missed the playoffs only once.
Despite that mystique, there are still instances when this crop of Beermen fought through immense adversity and that challenge happened again in the 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
San Miguel started out the conference at 2-5 before import Chris McCullough changed the tide and lead the Beermen to the seventh seed in the playoffs where their championship experience rose to the top like foam on a well-poured pint.
The championship run culminated in a 102-90 Game 6 win over TNT as the Beermen captured their 27th championship, 13 more than second placers Alaska and Magnolia.
“They [the players] know that they should win every game but losing is something we have to learn on, it was a learning process for us and that’s what made us a tough team to beat,” said Austria Friday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen’s path to the title was anything but easy.
San Miguel, the reigning Philippine Cup champion, first had to overcome no.2 seed NorthPort’s twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals before taking a 3-1 series win over physical Rain or Shine.
The finals series against the KaTropa just heightened the intensity after the Beermen fell 2-1 in the first three games of the seven-game series.
San Miguel, which is searching for its first Grand Slam since 1989, showed its championship experience and won three straight games to close out the series against TNT.
“Our journey to the finals really was a rollercoaster and we never thought that we would be in the playoffs,” said Austria who now tied Chot Reyes for fifth all-time in most titles a coach has won. “The players really worked hard because they know what’s at stake.”
Austria added that it wasn’t just a salvaged season for them, but the title in the second conference meant that the Grand Slam is once again within grasp.
“I think we have a good chance to win the Grand Slam but as I said we will take it one game at a time,” said Austria. “The players are really aspiring for the Grand Slam but we need to work hard because every team is an obstacle on our way to the Grand Slam.”
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