No. 1 Beermen looking to accomplish ‘getting back what’s ours’ | Inquirer Sports
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No. 1 Beermen looking to accomplish ‘getting back what’s ours’

By: - Reporter / @MusongINQ
/ 04:30 AM July 27, 2022
Things are looking up for June Mar Fajardo (top) and the Beermen, who battle the skidding Rashawn McCarthy and the rest of the Bossing.

Things are looking up for June Mar Fajardo (top) and the Beermen, who battle the skidding Rashawn McCarthy and the rest of the Bossing. —PBA IMAGES

Leo Austria and his wards at San Miguel Beer were very specific of their target even way before the PBA Philippine Cup started.

“We want nothing less than the championship—to get back what is ours,” Austria had told the Inquirer a couple of months back during the league’s Media Day. He says nothing has changed since then, and his Beermen are even more upbeat after learning firsthand that they can do what they set out for.

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“That was the first step,” Austria, on the eve of its quarterfinal clash with Blackwater on Tuesday, told the Inquirer over the phone, referring to qualifying as the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. “As of this time, it (early target) is very achievable. But it is still one game at a time for us.”

The Beermen, who won this title five straight years before losing it in the bubble in 2020, clash with the Bossing in the 6 p.m. game at Smart Araneta Coliseum, where No. 2 and defending champion TNT tackle No. 7 Converge in the 3 p.m. contest.

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TNT finished just a full game behind the Beermen with an 8-3 record, and, just like San Miguel, is highly favored to make short work of its lower-ranked foe.

“I really like the way we ended the [eliminations],” TNT’s Chot Reyes said. “But we will be coming off a long break, and as you know, that’s a double-edged sword.”

Not enough

Team Nos. 1 and 2 enjoy win-once privileges in this round, but both Austria and Reyes hope they don’t have to reach for that bonus.

“The effort we played with in the elimination round won’t be enough [to get us through] in the playoffs,” Reyes, who will continue to miss defensive guards Ryan Reyes and Brian Heruela, said. “We have to raise the level of our game.”

San Miguel’s victory over Blackwater in their only elimination round meeting was a 110-107 overtime win, while the Tropang Giga needed to finish strong before turning back the FiberXers, 86-83—not quite the results that would tell the story of those teams at the top colliding with the tailenders of the playoff field.

Troy Rosario will be coming off injury bay to help the Tropang Giga, who won’t have Poy Erram at 100 percent after straining a calf in his last Gilas Pilipinas stint.

San Miguel will be coming into the playoffs practically in full force, with only Terrence Romeo out.

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Vic Manuel has been broken in slowly, and Austria bared that Chris Ross will play and that this game will more or less determine how fit the defensive whiz will be for the rest of the playoffs.

“We have actually been lucky,” Austria said of their 9-2 record that topped the eliminations. “Because we had so many absent players and yet we kept on winning.”

5-game skid

While San Miguel has a lot of momentum coming into the playoffs, Blackwater is in a tailspin, to say the least.

After starting with a 5-1 record to even flirt with a spot in the top two, the Bossing closed out with five straight defeats—some of them truly ugly—which threaten to turn what started out as a Cinderella conference into one of those tournaments they are very much familiar with.

“We’re blessed with this opportunity to be in the playoffs. San Miguel is the heavy favorite, but we’ll come out and put up the best fight we can,” said Blackwater coach Ariel Vanguardia. INQ

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