San Miguel coach Leo Austria kept it simple when asked what helped his team fight a seemingly unwavering adversary who also understands the privilege and honor of competing. won — and won — the Philippine Basketball Association title.
“We’re fighting for the pride of the Filipino people,” he said on Sunday, after a 98-96 exit from the Bay Area helped the Beermen survive the Commissioner’s Cup semi-final, despite almost, with the Dragons still leading 2-1 and having two more shots to end them in their best three-match series.
The Beermen will attempt to put out one of those shots on Wednesday when Game 4 takes place at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City at 5:45 p.m. shortly after Barangay Ginebra tries to take out her team. Magnolia in the 3pm game.
Austria and his charges will be heavily inspired, all thanks to that defiant stance on Sunday. But his seasoned coach and highly-regarded grandpa said they had to dig deep into the origins of that stellar performance in Game 3.
“We need to give everything we have. As ‘Pops’ would say, whatever is left in our tank, we have to give it our all,” said six-time top-rated player June Mar Fajardo, who finished with 21 points and 16 respectively. re-enabled last Sunday.
“I’ve been saying this since I’ve been here: We’re probably the deepest team in the league. We have guys who at any given moment can score and play great defensively,” said import Devon Scott, who also scored a brace and saved the game that night.
Barangay Ginebra hopes to turn the door on a series of championship games as the Gin Kings are now in full swing with troublesome player Nards Pinto returning.
“There’s still some swelling, but the pain is gone,” Pinto told reporters after playing his first game back after spraining his right ankle. “My concern now is just being comfortable.”
Ginebra head coach Tim Cone also feels that Pinto will be vitally important as Magnolia’s Paul Lee – who played little in the previous encounter – is expected to return to duty.
“He could be one of our main stops for Paul,” said the decorated mentor.
Bay Area, a Hong Kong-based team underpinned by the famous Canadian Andrew Nicholson, are hoping to become the first visiting club to win it all since the late Ron Jacobs led Northern Consolidation —composed of future Nationals featured players and two naturalized players—won the 1985 Enhancement Conference.
“It would be a real honor to be in that grand final. And we are close. I’m excited,” said Dragons coach Brian Goorjian.
The Finals, if the Four Finals are finished in less than five games, will begin on Christmas Day also at the MOA Arena.
This will be the second year in a row that the tournament takes place over Christmas after NLEX took on Phoenix and Barangay Ginebra and Magnolia went head-to-head last season, which broke a spell that began in 2017.
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