IT wasn’t too long ago when the San Miguel bench made a grand total of one point in the Game One loss to Magnolia in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals.
Now, that much-maligned bench is turning out to be the biggest difference maker as the Beermen walloped the Hotshots for the second consecutive game, 111-87, on Easter Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The services of June Mar Fajardo, Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot weren’t needed in the fourth period where the Beermen outgunned their foes, 36-19, to rip open what until then was a tight contest.
Guys like Brian Heruela, Gabby Espinas and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser conspired with the red-hot Marcio Lassiter in a killer fourth-quarter salvo that took the fight away from the Hotshots.
“We’re just trying to bring the energy up, the intensity, give our first group of guys a good rest. Get some stops. That’s the most important thing for us defensively, we have to make stops and execute,” said Heruela, who scored eight of his 11 points in the fourth period.
“Coach has been preaching that over and over again, we have to make stops and then execute our plays to give ourselves a chance,” he added.
Espinas, who finished with nine points and was an asset defensively for San Miguel, said he was just doing everything he can to give four-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo some much-needed breather, especially after playing heavy minutes early in the playoffs.
“Pag ganun siguro lalaruin ng second group, mas makakapag-pahinga si June Mar. Mas magiging fresh siya next game,” he added.
The pair know they have to always stay sharp knowing that games like this when they will have to play extended minutes will come.
“It’s a lot of repetition physically. You have to work out, hours in the gym and practice on your craft each and everyday,” Huruela continued.
“You have to be mentally sharp. You have to be prepared. Visualize what’s happening, whether you’re inside or not, you have to keep observing the game.”
Magnolia's bench went on to outscore its SMB counterpart, 40-33.
As a veteran, it’s something that Espinas shouldn’t have any problems adjusting to.
“Yun talaga ang pinakamahirap kasi minsan papawisan ka pa lang, bigla ka na ilalabas. Pero part of the job na lang siguro kasi gusto namin pare-parehas manalo,” said Espinas.
“As one of the veterans, siguro dapat prepared ka na sa mga ganitong laban e. Bubunutin ka ngayon, tapos next game wala. Kailangan talaga yung mindset mo, hindi ka man gamitin ngayon, ready ka parin.”