By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup finals series between defending champions San Miguel Beermen and Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok goes to a deciding Game Seven on Wednesday with both teams expecting a grind and a match necessitating only their best.
Forced after the Beermen took Game Six, 98-86, on Sunday to level the series and stave off being dethroned, the two teams now make one last go at it to be crowned this season’s Philippine Basketball Association All-Filipino champion.
San Miguel coach Leo Austria said they are very thankful to have been able to tie the series and give themselves a chance to retain their title, which has been in their hold for the last four years.
“We are very thankful to be able to level the series. I think key for us in this game was our defense. Hopefully we can continue it in the rubber match,” said Mr. Austria following Game Six.
The San Miguel coach said they feel good of their chances in Game Seven but acknowledges that Magnolia would come in prepared and ready to battle.
“It would take a lot preparation and hard work for us heading into Game Seven because we all know Magnolia is used to grind-out games. They continue to hustle and play tough no matter what,” he added.
Mr. Austria said a good sign for them was that erstwhile struggling Marcio Lassiter finally found his shots last time around.
Still working his way back from a back injury, Mr. Lassiter had his best game in a while in Game Six, finishing with 20 points on 50% shooting (7-of-14) to go along with seven rebounds.
His solid game complemented the efforts of June Mar Fajardo (23 points and 18 rebounds) and Chris Ross (17 points and six assists) to help their team to the victory.
“Hopefully Marcio gets his consistency. He’s still not there but his working his way to form. We all know how important he is to our team. We hope this game would boost his confidence going into the rubber match,” said Mr. Austria.
While they missed out the opportunity to close things out in Game Six, Magnolia coach Chito Victolero said they are still bullish of getting the job done in Game Seven.
“Despite the loss I still give credit to my players for they never gave up. We had our chances but I guess the game was really for San Miguel because they hit big shots that helped their cause. But we will review the tape and see what we can improve on,” Mr. Victolero said.
In Game Six, guard Jio Jalalon top-scored for the Hotshots with 17 points with Ian Sangalang adding 14.
Mr. Victolero went on to say that Game Seven should be a fun one for the entire PBA as the two teams could only be expected to give their all.
Game Seven of the PBA Philippine Cup finals is on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.