Austria credits players’ character as Beermen weather rocky start
MANILA, Philippines—There’s always been a lot of expectations from San Miguel under the Leo Austria era and satisfying that demand meant that the team had to power through some bumps and bruises just to get the job done.
A 1-2 record may be reasonable for some clubs but for the Beermen, such a subpar start meant stepping up in the absence of stars June Mar Fajardo and Terrence Romeo.
Enter Moala Tautuaa and the ever-reliable Chris Ross who, despite nursing an assortment of injuries, led the Beermen to three straight wins and a comfortable 4-2 record.
Austria said that it’s all about the championship attitude of his players and that mentality was on full display in the Beermen’s 89-82 win over Meralco in the PBA Philippine Cup.
“I think for so long we know the attitude, the character of the player,” said Austria in a virtual press conference Wednesday at Angeles University Foundation.
Austria, who has led San Miguel to eight championships, singled out Ross for playing through the pain that he gradually sustained while playing inside the bubble.
Ross, 35, played through an injured right thumb and a banged-up knee but was still vital in San Miguel’s closing run in the fourth.
Up four in the final 30 seconds, the Beermen needed one more dagger to turn off the Bolts and Alex Cabagnot dutifully found Ross open in the left wing for the game-sealing triple with 19 seconds to play.
“Even though he’s hurt, he will play 100 percent and he knows how to play. I think that rubbed off to some of the players. We were down by double figures but we’re not losing our hope and I got some of the players from the bench who provided a spark especially Von Pessumal and Bambam Gamalinda,” said Austria.
San Miguel trailed Meralco by 13, 67-54, with less than a minute left in the third but Tautuaa and Cabagnot lit up in the fourth and combined for 19 points bring the Beermen back before Ross ultimately buried the Bolts.
“In the last seven minutes, Alex Cabagnot scored a lot and it had a lot of impact,” said Austria. “They know how to win. In the last few minutes when we were leading by five or six, we know that we have to take care of that lead and they knew how to do it.”
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