Having covered Barangay Ginebra and San Miguel Beer this season, the ongoing 2017 PBA Philippine Cup Finals easily pits the team with the “big heart” versus the team that’s been “toughened by adversity” the past 3 seasons.
Ginebra has long been carrying the NSD (never say die) mantra from the olden days of former playing coach Robert Jaworski, while San Miguel Beer, aside from its talent-deep roster, has been dominant in the last 2 editions of the Philippine Cup led by 3-time league MVP June Mar Fajardo.
The series currently is at 1-1 after SMB opened the championship round with a runaway 109-82 demolition of Ginebra, before the Kings bounced back with a vengeful 124-118 overtime win in Game 2 in Lucena.
With the series now reduced to a best-of-5, winning Game 3 will be crucial as both teams try to seize control of the championship series.
Fatigue is already a given since both squads are coming off separate 7-game semifinal series. Thus, coaches Tim Cone and Leo Austria are expected to dig deep into their respective benches in order to give the much needed breather on their starters and preserve them for crunch time.
And since this is the Finals, no team will give an inch.
The Kings sure are hungry for all-Filipino recognition, having last won the season’s most prestigious tournament in the 2007 when they were still under coach Jong Uichico.
Incidentally, Ginebra’s all-Filipino conquest came at the expense of San Miguel Beer, 4-2, which was then being mentored by Chot Reyes.
In contrast, the Beermen have been lording over the Philippine Cup since 2015 under coach Leo Austria.
With the 6-10 Fajardo leading the way, the Beermen proved to be a tough nut to crack in the season-opening conference.
SMB also has a slew of veterans, who have been instrumental in the team’s back-to-back Philippine Cup championship runs— from Arwind Santos, to Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross and Ronald Tubid.
PBA fans sure have varied reactions as these “sister teams”—squads owned by San Miguel Corp. competing in the Finals, but if there’s one thing sure, only one ball club will emerge as champion.
For SMB, winning the Philippine Cup would mean taking home the perpetual trophy, while for Ginebra, capturing first conference would mean ending a decade of heart aches in the all-Filipino.