It has been over two years, yet Paul Lee hasn’t freed himself from the pain he and Magnolia suffered in the hands of long-time rivals San Miguel.
“Until now,” said the 32-year-old, “it’s still painful.”
He was referring to the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup Finals, the second time in a row that the storied clubs met in the most prestigious conference’s Last Dance.
The best-of-seven series went the full route, and the Hotshots were clear with their intentions of writing that chapter with an ending where they are the victors.
Chito Victolero’s wards erected a 17-point lead barely three minutes into the third quarter. All that they needed then was to protect it all the way to the end.
Unfortunately, they failed to do so.
The Beermen slowly chipped away the deficit, and both squads figured in a slugfest that saw them exchange leads 10 times in the last 7:22.
“‘Yung chance namin na ‘yun, ‘yun ‘yung pinaka-close — and against a San Miguel na sobrang buong-buo,” Lee recalled.
“One basket away lang kami to win the All-Filipino championship.”
But now, the Hotshots will have a chance to exorcise the ghost of the past, as they’ll be vying for the 2021 Philippine Cup title against TNT.
Though he knows it won’t be easier as they will have to hurdle the top-seeded Tropang Giga, Lee likes their chances mainly because of Calvin Abueva.
The ‘Beast,’ according to the gunslinging guard, has plugged one too many holes in the team, thus his optimism to get that elusive title.
“It’s a different group, pero ‘yung core namin intact pa rin. With the help of Clavin siguro mas mataas yung chance namin makakuha ng championship.”
“Kasi nga yung nabibigay ni Calvin, iba talaga, dami niyang napuno na pagkukulang sa team,” he explained.
Aside from that shot at redemption, though, what drives Lee is the opportunity to add the Philippine Cup championship to his collection.
Lee has a couple of Governors’ Cup titles and one Commissioner’s Cup gold, but has yet to feel how it’s like hoisting the Perpetual trophy.
“It’s another chance to win my first All-Filipino championship. It’s my tenth year sa PBA, pero until now wala pa rin akong All-Filipino,” he said.
“So, another chance sa akin. And, ‘yun nga, another chance ulit na makapag-champion ‘tong bagong grupo namin.”