The San Miguel Beermen and Magnolia Hotshots pose with the Jun Bernardino trophy during the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup Finals press conference in Eastwood, Wednesday. | PBA Images
MANILA, Philippines — This year’s San Miguel-Magnolia PBA Philippine Cup finals may pale in comparison to their old rivalry during the ‘80s, but Beermen head coach Leo Austria and counterpart Chito Victolero are hopeful that the could give the fans the dogfight they yearn for.
“I hope na ang series namin ay maraming matuwa,” Austria said during the PBA Philippine Cup Finals presser at Eastwood on Wednesday. “Alam naman natin na ang magkakapatid ay laging nag-aaway.”
“Maganda rin para sa mga fans itong series na ito, maglalaro talaga nang todo ang dalawang team na ‘to,” Victolero chimed in.
The current iteration of the teams may have no bad blood between them, neither does the pairing enjoy the same billing like that of Manila Classico’s, but separately, they all make up for compelling storylines:
June Mar Fajardo, the reigning league Most Valuable Player and the holder of the award for the past four years, experienced his first heartbreak in the PBA Finals in the hands of the franchise. Waxing nostalgic, the Cebuano behemoth said this time’s paves the way for a payback.
“Hindi ko talaga makakalimutan nung rookie year ko, Magnolia (then San Mig Coffee) ang first championship heartbreak ko. Pinaiyak nila ako,” he said. “Binasag ko ang PC ko.”
Mark Barroca, PJ Simon, Rafi Reavis and an injured Marc Pingris were part of that crew. Under Tim Cone, they won two Governors Cup titles before marching to a historic Grand Slam in 2013. And that is one reason they’re fired up to take on San Miguel Beer in this series.
“It’s been four years bago kami nakabalik and maraming bago. Sobrang masaya ako dahil na-experience namin ngayon kung paano ulit makabalk sa championship,” noted Simon.
“Naiyak nga ako [kagabi] e. Pagkabuzzer, hawak ko yung bola. Sobrang pasalamat ako nakabalik kami sa Finals,” Barroca said in a previous interview.
The Beermen, for their part, will be fighting for a place in the history books. They will be gunning for a feat that will prove as unprecedented in the league. Clearly, they are not going to let that chance to slip away.
“Kung papalarin kami it’s the first time na mananalo ang isang koponan sa PBA nang apat na sunod-sunod na All-Filipino,” Austria said.
Forward Arwind Santos added that the team is also battling for his mentor’s wife, who is recovering from a kidney surgery.
“Kagaya nga ng sinabi ko kanila, marami ngang dahilan. siguro isa ang dahilan ay sa asawa ni coach leo, dumaan sa pagsubok. Tapos ‘yung chance na history nga,” he said. “Kami ung dume-depende sa trono na yan. Siyempre maraming gustong umagaw, kumuha noon, nasa amin yan kung papayagan namin sila.”
For Victolero, the series is an opportunity to not only foil a historic bid but to also be a cog in continuing what seems to be a franchise “tradition.” Purefoods, whenever they undergo a rebrand, always wind up winning a championship in the same season.
“‘Yun ang history ng Purefoods franchise eh. Big challenge noong simula pa lang ng conference, ‘yun ang challenge sa amin — to be in the Finals … I think ready naman ang mga players ko diyan. Kailagan lang namin ng almost perfect game to beat the defending champion,” he noted.
And as far as that “tradition” bit is concerned, Austria got it covered, seemingly kicking off the hostilities:
“Kanina may nagtatanong nga kung ‘destiny’ or ‘dynasty,’” he said of San Miguel’s drive to win. “Sabi ko it’s ‘tradition’ — sana maging tradition namin na kami lagi ang nanalo sa All-Filipino.”
The actual skirmishes begin this Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum followed by a Sunday clash at the Mall of Asia Arena. The series will go on a break in observance with the Holy Week.