Leo Austria on surprising Mahindra: 'They can beat any team in the PBA right now'
James White is unbeaten through three games as Mahindra import. Jaime Campos

WANT to know the formula to beat San Miguel Beer? Ask Mahindra.

The Enforcers have had the Beermen’s number since the former entered the league as an expansion team last year, being the only squad to put up a winning record against the most successful club of all time, but most especially the last two seasons, with a 4-2 win-loss slate.

In fact, the Columbian Autocar Corp. franchise is unbeaten in four games against the Beermen in conferences with imports since last season.

The Beermen may have won three championships over the last five conferences, but they can’t seem to shake off the Enforcers’ curse, with the latest evidence a 105-103 decision in the Governors’ Cup on Wednesday.

SMB coach Leo Austria believes there’s no secret to the Enforcers’ success against them, but simply sheer hard work and a tall, defensive-minded import for an anchor.

“Ini-address ko lahat yung history namin dahil sinabi ko pa nga sa kanila this team wanted us to be their first game kasi suwerte sila kapag tayo ang kalaban,” Austria said as the Enforcers remained undefeated in three games to emerge as the unlikely leader in the season-ending tournament.

“And then don't underestimate this team because I watched them in the last two games na they can beat any team in the PBA right now and that is because of the hard work of their players,” he added. “They have a good combination plus they have a tall import who can jump and is very energetic.”

After having 7-foot-2 PJ Ramos in last season’s Commissioner’s Cup, shot-blocking demon Hamady N’Diaye in last year’s Governors’ Cup, then 6-foot-11 Augustus Gilchrist in the last midseason tournament, the Enforcers have another promising reinforcement in James White this conference.

“I think yun ang pinaka-malaking support sa kanila,” Austria said of White, who’s the tallest among this batch of imports at 6’8” 1/2. “They know that somebody can block the shots if ever na-elude ng defense yung kalaban. And if ever they miss their shots they know he can put it back, and that's what happened.”

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White, who’s also the youngest in this crop at 22, registered 34 points, 11 boards, two assists, and one steal in 40 minutes against the Beermen.

“He's a different import compared to the other imports na malaki lang in the shaded area,” Austria said. “That's why nagkakaroon ng mga mismatches doon sa mga big men namin.” 

But while praising the Enforcers, Austria knows the young squad will be tested when the going gets tough.

“I think deserve rin sila to get that kind of good start because they work really hard…but it's too early in the tournament,” the champion coach said. “We don't know yet what will happen but I would like to congratulate them dahil that's a franchise record for them.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos