Beer­men rue lost op­por­tu­nity

Tempo - - Front Page - By JONAS TERRADO

A strange feel­ing was felt in­side the San Miguel Beer­men locker room Wed­nes­day night when all play­ers had al­ready granted me­dia in­ter­views or had left the Mall of Asia Arena for their re­spec­tive homes or gath­er­ings.

There was no stench of beer, no court­side re­porter soaked up by ju­bi­lant play­ers, a cham­pi­onship tro­phy or a place in his­tory to be sa­vored.

In­stead, the Beer­men were pon­der­ing on the Grand Slam dream that dis­ap­peared while also re­flect­ing on a sea­son of suc­cess.

“Just be­cause we didn’t win the Grand Slam doesn’t mean we didn’t have a great year,” said Chris Ross af­ter the Beer­men were given a 10484 beat­ing by Barangay Gine­bra San Miguel in the quar­ter­fi­nals, end­ing their cam­paign in the PBA Gover­nors’ Cup on a sour note.

While Ross pre­ferred to look at the pos­i­tives, the failed march to the PBA’s sixth triple crown re­mains a tough pill to shal­low for team­mate Ar­wind Sa­nis tos.

“Parang yung tinanim mo, alam mo na ikaw ang aani, hindi mo na-ani,” de­scribed Ar­wind San­tos, known for id­iomatic com­ments to stress a point. “Ga­nun ka-sakit yun e, parang lugi ka, parang mas gu­gus­tuhin mong bi­nagyo na lang, at least natang­gap mo na ka­ga­gawan ng bagyo.”

June Mar Fajardo, still on course for a record-ty­ing fourth Most Valu­able Player de­spite the early exit, could only won­der if such op­por­tu­nity may come again. In­stead, this group of Beer­men be­came the eighth team in PBA his­tory to fall short of a Grand Slam.

“Nan­dito na kami sa gani­tong op­por­tu­nity nag-slip pa,” the gen­tle gi­ant lamented. “Ke­lan pa ba ba­ba­lik yung gani­tong op­por­tu­nity? Malay mo wala na next year, malay mo ma­punta ulit kami sa gani­tong sit­wasyon next year. Pero tig­nan na lang natin yung pos­i­tive side, nanalo kami nung unang two con­fer­ences.”

There’s no ques­tion that the Beer­men was a cut above the rest of cham­pi­onships in the Philip­pine Cup and Com­mis­sioner’s Cup. The com­bi­na­tion of Fajardo’s dom­i­nant pres­ence in the paint, the all-around ef­forts of Ross, San­tos and Alex Cabag­not, the shoot­ing of Mar­cio Las­siter had left ri­val coaches plenty of headaches.

But the Beer­men never got it go­ing in the Gover­nors’ Cup. Fajardo dealt with a strained calf early, man­age­ment de­cided to re­place Wen­dell McKines with Terik Bridge­man, who was even­tu­ally sent home when two lack­lus­ter games prompted the ar­rival of Ter­rence Wat­son.

It led to in­con­sis­tent per­for­mances – close calls against cel­lar-dwellers and flashes of bril­liance against the heavy­weights. San Miguel was groomed to fin­ish in the top four, but blew an 18-point lead in a 104-101 loss to Mer­alco, rel­e­gated the Beer­men to No. 6 and a tough task of hav­ing to beat No. 3 Gine­bra in the quar­ters.

Ex­pected to play well with the go­ing got tough, San Miguel was beaten soundly by a Gine­bra team de­ter­mined to avenge its 107-103 de­feat last Sept. 10 with a well-ex­e­cuted game­plan.

“I’m sure (Gine­bra coach Tim Cone) watched a lot of our last game (against them) and de­vised a game­plan to at­tack the way we played them, so coach Tim’s one of the great­est ever in the PBA and play­ing against him in a twice-to-beat is tough,” said Ross, prais­ing the two-time Grand Slam coach that de­nied their chance of join­ing him in that elite com­pany.


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