by Jonas Terrado
San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria and Magnolia mentor Chito Victolero believe the team that shows the best strength will come out victorious in their PBA Philippine Cup Finals rematch which starts on Wednesday.
SMB and Magnolia made it to the PBA’s grandest stage through different routes with the Beermen flashing their offensive strength against the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters and the Hotshots showcasing their defensive prowess in surviving the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
“Parang ping-pong lang yan,” Victolero said during Monday’s press conference at Sambokojin in Eastwood City, Libis. “Kung sino yung may best strength ang magiging factor, yun siguro mananalo sa series.” (Like table tennis, whoever is stronger will prevail).
Magnolia endured seven hard-fought games against Rain or Shine including a low-scoring match in the deciding Game 7 to reach the finals for the second straight conference.
San Miguel finished off Phoenix in the other semis after winning the last two games by scoring an average of 110 points.
“We all know that Magnolia is a defensive team but we were able to beat two defensive teams in our last two playoff series so we’ll see what happens,” said Austria.
The Beermen will be testing the Hotshots’ defensive capability with June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Chris Ross, Christian Standhardinger, Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot and first-time finalist Terrence Romeo.
Lassiter’s condition could become a decisive factor after hurting his back during the Phoenix series, though SMB’s ace shooter vowed to be available in the series.
Magnolia is going to lean on its defensive core of Mark Barroca, Jio Jalalon, Rome dela Rosa, Justin Melton and Game 7 hero Rafi Reavis, who pulled down 20 rebounds in a 63-60 win over the Elasto Painters at the Mall of Asia Arena.
But the Hotshots can deliver on offense with Paul Lee and Ian Sangalang, who posed a problem for Rain or Shine during the semis.