SMART CLARK GIGA CITY – Plain and simple, injuries finally got the better of a champion team like San Miguel Beer.
While offering no excuses, coach Leo Austria said the physical health of his team played a big factor as the Beermen’s five-year reign as PBA Philippine Cup title holder came to an end on Sunday night.
A younger and highly-motivated Meralco side ran the ageing champions to the ground to pull off a second straight win, 90-68, and advance to the semifinals of the league’s crown jewel for the first time in franchise history.
Austria didn’t deny the Bolts of their moment, saying they deserved their spot in the Final Four opposite top seed Barangay Ginebra.
But the champion coach believes the Beermen could have given their opponents a better fight if their key players are all in tip-top condition.
“Our players tried their best but it’s hard because in order for us to win games like this, it needs a lot of preparations. And it’s hard for us to prepare because of the injuries to our players,” said Austria.
The veteran coach mentioned the knee tendinitis that bothered big man Mo Tautuaa, Chris Ross nursing a hamstring injury, Marcio Lassiter playing with a hurting groin, and Alex Cabagnot struggling with a painful hamstring.
That’s not to mention the absence in the bubble of six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser and the dislocated shoulder suffered by Terrence Romeo in a game against TnT Tropang Giga early in the bubble season.
“We wanted to win. But the problem is, how can we win with the kind of situation we’re experiencing,” said Austria.
The San Miguel coach said it was a surprise the Beermen managed to finish in the Top 4 by the end of the eliminations given the health situation of the team.
“At least we’re able to survive and make it to the quarterfinals,” he said. “Unfortunately, we’re not able to take advantage of the twice-to-beat.
“It was a learning experience for us, but it’s hard to remain on top of the world.”