Only three veterans have remained since the San Miguel Beermen won the sixth of their seven titles in the Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup under coach Leo Austria, who is thankful that their playoff games gave his “motley” cast of players the winning character to go all the way.
The veterans are 6’10” Junemar Fajardo, who has earned the league’s fourth Finals MVP, Marcio Lassiter, and Chris Ross, who are all now beaming with pride after going this far with the Beermen.
Austria showed his appreciation for the three after the Beermen struck down the undermanned Talk N Text Tropang Giga, 119-97, on Sunday night in Game 7 to claim the 2022 Philippine Cup crown at the Araneta Coliseum.
Austria came aboard eight years ago and steered San Miguel to its first title—the 2014–15 PBA Philippine Cup championship by beating Alaska in seven games. Back then, Arwind Santos was named Finals MVP.
“Most of our players, galing sa ibang team and they do not have experience in a championship. I think nakabuti sa amin ang mga playoff games namin, dahil we were able to develop a winning character,” added Austria.
The Beermen went to a best-of-seven semifinal clash with the Meralco Bolts, and Austria believes that this toughened up the likes of “newcomers” Simon Enciso, Robbie Herndon, Mo Tautuaa, Jericho Cruz, CJ Perez, Vic Manuel and Rodney Brondial.
Their many contributions in the finals kept the Beermen in the thick of things and made their fightback with the Tropang Giga an interesting one.
“The coaching staff and the management knew how to win a championship. And we’re lucky that the players realized that this is the way. That’s why San Miguel was successful in its campaign,” said Austria.
In taking the Philippine Cup honors, San Miguel weathered the big showing of Jayson Castro, who carried TNT with 32 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
But Castro’s performance was not enough without a COVID 19-stricken Chot Reyes calling the shots.
Manpower woes were felt as well by TNT later when it lost Poy Erram, who was ejected with 55 seconds left in the first half following an F2 on Moala Tautuaa.