MACAU – Champion coach Leo Austria believes San Miguel Beer’s stint in the East Asia League Terrific 12 will go a long way in the team’s bold bid to complete a PBA grand slam.
Austria said there’s no better way for the Beermen to prepare and get ready for the final piece of their Triple Crown campaign – the season-ending Governors’ Cup – than to play against some of the best players and ballclubs around Asia.
“We’ve gained a lot of knowledge and experience in this tournament. It was a great opportunity for us to learn,” said Austria of the Beermen’s first ever stint in the Terrific 12.
Too bad, the franchise fell short of advancing to the finals as it suffered a sorry 111-89 loss to Lance Stephenson and the Liaoning Flying Leopards in their semifinal encounter Saturday night to the disappointment of the huge Filipino crowd at the Tap Seac Multisport Pavilion.
The highest San Miguel could achieve is to finish third place against the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions, who the Beermen are playing as of presstime.
“We’ll take it seriously (third place) because as we’ve said we’re here not just to participate, we’re here to compete,” said Austria.
“This will help us in future tournaments, especially with the third conference just started,” he added. “We have to develop the team’s winning attitude so every game is really important for us.”
The Beermen kept pace with the Flying Leopards early on and even held a 28-26 lead on eight straight points by Von Pessumal bridging the first and second quarters.
But Stephenson and former fellow NBA player Salah Mejri began to wax hot as Liaoning outscored the Beermen the rest of the way, 25-2, and found themselves trailing by a huge margin at the half, 51-30.
The 29-year-old Stephenson, who was with Lebron James with the Los Angeles Lakers just last season, poured 23 of his 35 points in the first half, which he capped by draining a long three pointer to beat the halftime buzzer. He also finished with 10 rebounds.
Mejri, who was the starting center of the Tunisian team that beat Gilas Pilipinas in the last FIBA World Cup, added 21 points and 11 rebounds as he dominated the Beermen inside.
Liaoning (111) – Stephenson 35, Mejri 21, Gao 14, He 13, Liu 9, Guo 9, Wang 4, X. Liu 3, Yu 0, Y. Liu 0.
San Miguel (89) – Romeo 19, Wells 16, Prosper 15, Cabagnot 9, Standhardinger 8, Nabong 6, Ross 2, Santos 0, Tubid 1, Vigil 0, Ganuelas-Rosser 0.
Quarterscores: 26-23; 51-30; 85-63; 111-89.