By JONAS TERRADO
Game Today (Mall of Asia Arena)
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs Magnolia
(San Miguel leads series 3-1)
Arwind Santos and the San Miguel Beermen are ready to make their party plans a reality tonight as they look to finish off the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok and capture a fourth straight PBA Philippine Cup crown in Game 5 of their best-of-seven Finals at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Santos didn’t hesitate in expressing his desire to finally savor the championship feeling in the 7 p.m. affair after the Beermen put themselves on the cusp of joining the fabled Crispa Redmanizers as the only teams to win the tournament four straight times with an 84-80 win two nights ago at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Gusto na naming mag-celebrate ng Friday,” Santos said after the Beermen grabbed a commanding 3-1 lead in the series on the night teammate June Mar Fajardo won a record sixth Galvalume 55-PBA Best Player of the Conference award. “Gusto na naming magpuyat. Ang tagal na naming di nakakatikim ng alcohol.”
Even coach Leo Austria is feeling a sense of confidence that the sixth title in 10 conferences since taking over before the 2014-15 season is all but a mere formally, though refusing to rule out Magnolia’s chances of orchestrating a stunning comeback.
“Meron pa silang natitirang hininga,” Austria said. “At 3-1, I think everything is possible. We should have a good start because knowing this team, Magnolia, they won’t give up until the last buzzer.”
A victory will make San Miguel the first team to win the PBA’s oldest and most prestigious tournament commonly known as the All-Filipino since Crispa completed a four-peat in 1984.
Crispa, however, had to do it in six years as the PBA failed to hold an All-Filipino conference in the 1981 and 1982 seasons, which is why some say that San Miguel’s impending journey is a rare one.
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero, however, refused to buy into the notion that a San Miguel triumph is already a foregone conclusion.
“It’s hard because we’re down 3-1, medyo mabigat yan,” said Victolero. “But I’m still positive, walang imposible.”
Victolero has a reason to be a bit optimistic, given how Magnolia gave San Miguel its most difficult win in the series. The Hotshots led for most of the first half, kept the game close in the second half and almost stole a victory despite a seven-point deficit in the final two minutes.
“The effort, the energy and the desire ng mga players andoon e. Wala na akong mahihiling pa,” Victolero said when looking back at Magnolia’s Game 4 showing.