For the first time in three years against rivals Alaska Aces, the mighty San Miguel Beermen have fallen.
Still, head coach Leo Austria urged his team to keep their heads up, saying that there’s nothing to be ashamed of amid a rare early exit in the Philippine Basketball Association.
Handicapped with a twice-to-win disadvantage, the sixth-seeded San Miguel were booted out in the ongoing 2018 PBA Governors’ Cup quarterfinals with a tough 85-96 loss to third-ranked Alaska on Wednesday night at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
Instead of soaking in the agony of an unfamiliar defeat, Austria opted to stick to the positives that the Beermen have accomplished.
“I think everybody’s expecting us that we’ll get into the next round. We failed to do it. Congratulations to Alaska. They are deserving to win this quarterfinals,” said Leo Austria, who was the author of the Beermen’s magnificent six-title run in recent years.
“But that’s basketball eh. You win some, you lose some. But I’m still proud of the team. Kasi in the last four years, twelve conferences, we’ve been in the Finals seven times, and won six championships. I think we have nothing to be ashamed of.”
Austria shed some light on another shaky Govs’ Cup campaign of San Miguel, which he attributed to a poor start anew.
Last season, the then-grand-slam-seeking San Miguel had already been on verge of that elusive three-peat when they were halted by defending champions Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in just one game in the quarterfinals, thanks to the Gin Kings’ twice-to-beat advantage.
For Austria, not getting inside the top four of this season-ending conference has always been the culprit of their struggle, and not the injury of their prized big man June Mar Fajardo, who was sidelined for more than two months due to a right shin injury before returning late in the elimination round.
“It’s not only the injury of June Mar. We’re struggling at the start of this conference,” he explained, adding also the short preparation time as another factor for slow starts being a usual Finals protagonist in the PBA.
“We were relegated to twice-to-beat disadvantage, and this is the second time na we’ve been in this kind of situation. First, it was against Ginebra and we lost, so it’s really important to get to the top four, especially in the third conference.”
With this, Austria is setting his sights on the next mission – which is to extend their All-Filipino reign to an unprecedented fifth year in a row, with all teams surely gunning for their heads.
“We will try to improve our team dahil nowadays, every team in the PBA keeps on improving and improving and we could not be overconfident,” he said. “Dahil alam natin na a lot of people is telling us – the All-Filipino is our conference. But those four All-Filipino championships are already in the past.
“Sabi ko nga, talagang looking forward to this All-Filipino Conference.”
Austria is also welcoming the inclusion of his five players – namely June Mar Fajardo, Christian Standhardinger, Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot and Arwind Santos – to the Gilas Pilipinas 20-man training pool.
‘I’m happy for them. I’m happy for them them dahil most of the players wanted to be in the national team and they are very excited,” he beamed. “Kaya ako natutuwa dahil di sila mawawala sa kundisyon.
“If next season will start January 13, at least before going to the training they’re already in shape.”
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