Leo Austria gets shot at redemption, 25 years after horror Shell loss to Ginebra
Leo Austria was a member of the Shell team that blew a 3-1 lead in the 1991 First Conference Finals against Ginebra. Jerome Ascano

LEO Austria now has a chance to exorcise the ghost of the past.

Twenty five years after Austria played for a Formula Shell team that blew a 3-1 series lead over Ginebra in the 1991 First Conference Finals, the soft-spoken San Miguel coach gets a shot at redemption after the Beermen moved on the cusp of completing the greatest comeback in the history of the PBA.

San Miguel turned back Alaska Friday night, 100-89, in Game Six of the Philippine Cup Finals to forge a deciding Game Seven in a title series where the Beermen stared at a 0-3 deficit just a week ago.

The Beermen’s shot at history has inevitably evoked memories of the sorry incident involving Austria and the Turbochargers more than two decades ago.

“Nandoon ako (sa ULTRA) when Rudy Distrito made that game-winning shot,” recalled Austria of that memorable fall-away jumper authored by the tough-playing Ginebra guard in the waning seconds of that classic do-or-die encounter that won it all for playing-coach Robert Jaworski and the league’s undisputed crowd darlings.

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To this day, the feat is still remembered as the most memorable comeback in league annals, and Shell’s defeat the biggest collapse ever in PBA history.

But one more win for the Beermen, and Austria will now be able to redeem himself from that harrowing experience.

“Yes, I believe in miracles,” Austria said. “Everyday merong nangyayari (na miracles).”

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