Playing for all thr marbles

Beermen
For the last time in their title series, the Beermen and the Hotshots clash today with the PBA All-Filipino Conference championship up for grabs. (PBA Images)

Beermen, Hotshots dispute All-Pinoy crown.

SAN Miguel Beer – the winningest ballclub in the PBA — has a tryst with history today.

The Beermen will enter the portals of the historic Smart Araneta Coliseum hoping to clinch a record fifth straight Philippine Cup title in their scheduled Game 7 battle with Magnolia Hotshots.

The Beermen had already set a record last season when they won their fourth straight title in the prestigious All-Filipino Conference, interestingly, at the expense of the same team they will play at 7 O’clock tonight.

Prior to that, the Beermen became noted for staging the greatest comeback in PBA history – that of winning the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup after a 0-3 start in the best-of-7 finals duel with Alaska.

Although the Beermen played catch-up in the first six games of the series, they had always managed to get even with the Hotshots, the last being in Game 6 which they handily won, 98-86, on Sunday.

Ironically, it was the Beermen who made a good job on defense in Game 6.

“We played good defense because of our second group,” said SMB coach Leo Austria, who is looking to steer the Beermen to their seventh title under him.

“Yung second group, nahawa na lahat sa kanila. Medyo nagkaroon kami ng baon papunta sa second half. Second half, nagkaroon ng run ‘yung kalaban namin pero ‘yung composure namin nandoon,” added Austria.

“We don’t want to relinquish our title,” declared Austria. “In the past few games, we don’t have any physical activities. We keep studying the film and some shooting and that’s it because you can’t have drastic adjustments. From Game One to Game Six, it’s a matter of who wants to win.”

The Hotshots, who are gunning for their first Philippine Cup diadem since winning it during their grand slam in 2014, have remarkably shown their toughness, more so their defense.

Thanks to their vaunted defense, the Hotshots had always managed to be on the lead in the series – 1-0, 2-1, 3-2 – but they have allowed the Beermen to tie them under the most crucial phase, and now, they will have to give their all, as much as possible their toughest defense, if they are to beat the Beermen.

Nevertheless, Magnolia coach Chito Victolero has remained confident about beating the Beermen, even brushing off last Sunday’s loss that paved the way for the winner-take-all match.

“We’re still positive. Alam naman namin na hindi madali,” said Victolero, looking to win his second title with the Hotshots in addition to the Governors’ Cup they won last season.

“The good thing is, the opportunity na ibinigay sa amin we will grab it kahit ano pa yun,” added Victolero.

“We have another opportunity on Wednesday (today). But you know, siguro naman it’s a different story on Wednesday. We don’t know kung ano ang mangyayari, but we always stay positive,” stressed Victolero.

The Beermen and the Hotshots are meeting for the sixth time in the first conference, with the former having beaten the latter four times in their first five meetings, the last one being last season.

Side by side with SMB’s glittering accomplishments in the pro-league is the individual feat of team’s top playmaker and achiever in June Mar Fajardo, who has made himself arguably the most-decorated player since entering the league in 2012.

Consequently, the five-time Most Valuable Player awardee and eight-time winner of the Best Player of the Conference, would be the focus of the defensive plan the Hotshots are expected to unfurl.

The Beermen are gunning for their 26th title overall and their ninth All-Filipino crown, while the Hotshots are seeking to clinch their 15th title overall and their 7th in the Philippine Cup.