SUCCESSFULLY bucking a 0-3 start to their campaign in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup, the defending champions San Miguel Beermen expressed readiness now that they are back in the finals.
Completed their tournament turnaround with another finals appearance after eliminating the Alaska Aces on Sunday in their best-of-five semifinal series in four games, the Beermen are now gearing up for another run at the championship for the midseason PBA tournament, armed with the many lessons they learned from what they described was a trying road they had to take.
Saw itself open its title defense with three straight losses, San Miguel started to turn things around when it replaced original import Troy Gillenwater with erstwhile PBA-banned Renaldo Balkman, going 6-3 the rest of the classification after the latter’s arrival.
The Beermen wound up at sixth place and set up a quarterfinal date with the third-seeded TNT KaTropa, whom they eventually swept in an emotionally charged best-of-three series.
Alaska stood as the last hurdle for San Miguel in its quest to return to the finals and the Beermen broke through to it notwithstanding the gallant stand the undermanned Aces made.
“We’re happy we were able to pull ourselves through despite the tough start for us in the tournament. Good thing we replaced our import with Renaldo Balkman and the locals eventually found their game collectively and picked it up,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria following their ouster of Alaska at the weekend.
Mr. Austria and the Beermen are now awaiting the winner of the other semifinal series between the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
The Kings and Elasto Painters were to play in Game Four of their series later yesterday with Barangay Ginebra holding a 2-1 series lead.
For Mr. Austria, regardless of who they get to face in the finals they will go into in it prepared and ready to go.
“In the finals it’s a 50/50 chance. Anything can happen. But my team will be ready be it Barangay Ginebra or Rain or Shine,” Mr. Austria said.
In eliminating the Aces and barging into the finals, June Mar Fajardo and Mr. Balkman had solid double-double outputs.
Mr. Fajardo had 26 points and 12 rebounds while the San Miguel import finished with 23 and 16.
Guards Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross also made their presence felt in Game Four, winding up with 18 and 17 points, respectively, to help tow the Beermen to their 40th PBA finals appearance.
--This article was published in "BusinessWorld"--