Getting back up
Leo Austria once steered San Miguel out of a massive hole in a best-of-seven PBA title series. He doesn’t want to come anywhere close to something like that again, especially against an enemy that he has always heaped praises on.
The Beermen played without letup on Sunday, whipping TNT for a 116-90 triumph that avenged a lopsided defeat last Friday which tied their Philippine Cup semifinal race at two games apiece at Don Honorio Ventura State University gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
“If we lost, we’d slide to 3-1,” Austria said shortly after dealing the bloodbath on the dumbfounded Tropang Giga. “I think it would have been hard to recover especially against an organized, disciplined and well-coached team like TNT.”
Mo Tautuaa found holes in the Tropang Giga’s inside defense and led the Beermen with 25 points. He made 10-of-13 attempts from the stripe.
“Whenever we play together as a team—and I’ve said this before—we’re unstoppable. Playing as a team was the key,” added the wide-bodied Tautuaa, who also grabbed nine rebounds.
It was a story of bounce backs as Magnolia also ripped Meralco after dropping Game 3, with an 81-69 victory later giving the Hotshots a 3-1 lead over the undermanned Bolts. Ian Sangalang and leading Best Player of the Conference candidate Calvin Abueva finished with double-doubles and coach Chito Victolero got twin digit scores from two others in the convincing win as Magnolia can gun for a seat in the Finals on Wednesday.
“We still have to stay focused,” Victolero later said as he tries to keep his Hotshots hungry despite having three shots at the title series slot.
Marc Barroca scored 17 points like Sangalang and Abueva, but the Magnolia front-liners combined for 23 total rebounds.
With Tautuaa doing a lot of damage in the first half, the Beermen’s veterans and its vaunted backup of scoring champions contributed to the annihilation as San Miguel built leads of as large as 37 points and made it look like the Tropang Giga didn’t belong on the same floor with them.
“Today, everyone really stepped up,” said Austria, the brains behind a historic comeback during the 2015 All-Filipino Finals, where San Miguel overcame a 3-0 deficit to beat Alaska for the title which actually touched off a string of five straight titles that now stands as the all-time record.
With its front-line troopers subdued early on, TNT turned to its guards for production. However, frosty shooting kept the club from narrowing the gap, prompting Chot Reyes to reach for his role players in the second half.
The fleet-footed Jayson Castro paced the Tropang Giga with 15 points, while Glenn Khobuntin added 13 as lack of production from TNT’s other stars did the team in.Roger Pogoy was simply off-target, finishing with just two points. Rookie Mikey Williams, on the other hand, had to labor for all of his 11 points.
Troy Rosario, who picked up three fouls in the first period, contributed just 10 points, while Poy Erram, who had been steady in the past two meetings, was pulled out early in the second quarter after a collision with Tautuaa during a loose ball scramble.
But that’s not to take anything away from the Beermen, who were just assertive right at the opening tip.
“The past few games against TNT, we’re always in a catch-up situation. We wanted to have was a good start. And we got it [today],” said Austria.
TNT took the lead in the best-of-seven series last Friday after a 115-98 win that also made the Beermen look bad that day as Reyes’ entire starting lineup finished in twin digits and accounted for all but 23 of the Tropang Giga’s production.
“The third game was really an embarrassing one for us. Honestly, we weren’t able to sleep because of that loss,” he added. INQ
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.