Coach Leo Austria hoping SMB stars can hold fort until return of injured teammates as they face Star
Leo Austria's Beermen have managed to stay in the top half of the leaderboard despite numerous injuries. Dante Peralta

SAN Miguel Beer seeks to continue coping with the absence of some of its key players as it squares off against Star in the PBA Governors’ Cup on Sunday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The defending champion Beermen are still missing Arwind Santos and Gabby Espinas due to knee injuries, while Yancy de Ocampo, Chris Lutz, and Brian Heruela are also recovering from respective ailments.

The Beermen missed the presence of their sidelined standouts last Wednesday when they suffered their first loss of the season-ending conference, a stunning 105-103 decision at the hands of surprise leader Mahindra.

Heruela was forced to see action despite nursing a back injury as Chris Ross also played just a day after arriving from the US to attend the wedding of his brother, leaving Alex Cabagnot with the bulk of the playmaking duties.

Still, SMB remains afloat and above .500 with two victories in three games and coach Leo Austria is hoping the rest of his stars keep holding the fort until the sidelined players return.

“I'm hoping na in the middle of the tournament sana maganda na yung health namin, dahil from the start talagang kulang kami,” said the champion coach, who also draws strength from AZ Reid and June Mar Fajardo.   

But don’t expect the Hotshots to take it easy against their sister squad in the 6:45 p.m. encounter as they are eager to build momentum following a 105-102 overtime victory over GlobalPort last Sunday.

RR Garcia is oozing confidence after his best game in his young Star career and is out to lead the Hotshots anew along with Allein Maliksi, PJ Simon, and Marqus Blakely, while James Yap aims to bounce back from a rare scoreless outing.

Hotshots stalwart Marc Pingris, however, is reminding his teammates not to get too ahead of themselves.

“Marami pa kaming error talaga na kailangan pang pagusapan pa,” Pingris said. “Alam kong mag-iimprove pa kami.”

Earlier, winless squads Phoenix and and Globalport face off at 4:30 p.m.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos