Despite building a strong case to be one of the best all-Filipino squads ever in the PBA as they have lorded over the Philippine Cup contest from 2015 to 2018, the San Miguel Beermen are still not exempt from criticism.
Chris Ross knows it all too well.
“We read some of the stuff that’s out there about us and when we don’t win championships,” recounted Ross.
“There are articles out there that are saying, ‘we’re too old’ and ‘we’re past our prime,’ and ‘we can’t win anymore.'”
But as the champions they are, Ross and the Beermen did not let any chatter get in their heads and spoil the way they play. Instead, their decorated crew used it as another reason to push themselves even harder.
Come Wednesday night, San Miguel proved those doubters wrong once again.
The Beermen overcame a 17-point deficit and bested the Magnolia Hotshots yet again, 72-71, in Game Seven of the Finals. They bagged their fifth consecutive Philippine Cup championship, becoming the first team in league history to do so.
“We use all that as fuel.
“We’re really self-motivated, but some of those things we use as fuel, and we kind of just push through and just fight back. We fought adversity, we clawed back, and we used everything,” said Ross.
The 34-year-old himself had a huge imprint in the win. After a poor first half showing that saw him lay an egg and commit three turnovers, Ross swished in a big triple that pulled his side to within three with 9:14 left in the game.
“I wanted to do something because of my first half, that was one of the worst halves of basketball I ever played in my life. It was so unlike me to come out like that in a game this big,” said Ross, who had seven points and eight boards.
“And I told my teammates at halftime, ‘I’ll be better in the second half. We’ll all be better, and we’ll come back and win’.”
San Miguel have hushed the naysayers once more with the historic feat. But beyond that, Ross asserted this is one of the sweetest titles this batch has won, particularly given how hard they’d had to fight to secure their dynasty.
“It’s one of the toughest. I have bad memories so it’s hard for me to remember, but this was the first one that I actually cried after winning the game,” said the 10-year pro, who now has seven PBA championships under his belt.
“I hugged coach Leo [Austria] and tears fell through my eyes. It was definitely one of the feel-good championships that we have.”