When no one else believed they could, the San Miguel Beermen did. It has been the mantra for success over the past two seasons, and the Beermen kept believing in themselves before even thinking of miracles.
When there was doubt whether the Beermen could compete, or even just make it a competitive series after June Mar Fajardo suffered a knee injury prior to the finals, the Beermen knew exactly what they were capable of, and it overpowered every thought, doubt, or skepticism from the outside.
“Siguro ang sikreto eh ang ganda talaga ng samahan namin. Nagtiwala kami sa isa’t isa and even down kami 0-3 nagsama-sama kami. And nagulat na lang kami ginawa namin ang tamang paraan para makuha (ang title) ng maayos. Sobrang fulfillment (ito) sa career,” Arwind Santos said.
“Sobrang saya namin. Feeling namin kasama namin ang mga anghel, bumaba para tulungan kami manalo at kunin yung history at legacy.”
What people don’t understand at first glance is that the Beermen have an abundance of tools — outside of the core expected to do damage — capable of making an impact, and that is exactly what the team did throughout the finals.
Names like Yancy De Ocampo, Gabby Espinas, Chris Lutz, Ronald Tubid, and even Jay-R Reyes and Ryan Arana all came to contribute in the finals. For some, these names are already lost from the spotlight due to arguably bigger names like Fajardo, Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, and Chris Ross, but head coach Leo Austria knew exactly what to draw from each of them.
And the Beermen built momentum from those strengths, as they claimed piece of history.
“Nagkaroon ng character ang team namin, pero kung ako masusunod, ayaw ko ulit ma-experience ito. Talagang nakakahiya kung mase-sweep. Ang gusto lang namin manalo ng isa eh. Pero binigyan kami ng pagkakataon to realize a championship is achievable,” Austria said.
“I think this is very special. It’s a back to back in the most prestigious conference. And not only that, we made history.”
Austria kept reminding his troops to keep fighting even when the odds were stacked; when the Alaska Aces took a 3-0 lead, the Beermen only focused on saving themselves from further embarrassment. But little did they know it would spark an uprising which would turn into a memorable milestone for the franchise.
“Kagaya ng sabi ko noong first win namin, miracles are just around the corner and every second it happens for us. I am happy for the players because they refused to lose. Every time they were on the court, they wanted to win,” the mentor said.
“Hindi namin inisip na history talaga. Isang panalo lang, okay na kami. Pero hindi kami nakuntento sa isang panalo, nilapit pa kami, nag 3-3, sabi ko, aba, kaya pala natin ah. Dun na kami nagising, nabuhay, at hindi na kami bumitaw,” Santos added.
What makes the championship even more special for Santos and the rest of the Beermen is the legacy they will be leaving in the league — becoming the first team in PBA history to win a best-of-7 series after trailing 0-3.
“Sobrang special nito dahil naging part ako ng history. Kahit (wala) na ako sa mundong ito, nabubuhay yung history, nakaukit pa rin yung mga pangalan namin,” Santos said.
“Maraming may duda, pero at least napatunayan natin. Normal lang naman sa tao ang may duda pero at least kami, pinalad kami, hindi rin namin akalain mananalo kami ng four straight.”
And it all started with believing they could.