Sunday, August 25, 2019

Mendoza: Why SMB’s Austria is a finalist again

All Write

YOU top your class, you are the toast at the toga-clad rites.

You top the bar exams, you are blue chip to The Firm.

You top the senatorial elections next month, you are the Senate’s sweetie pie.

But getting ahead of everybody is just the start of a journey.

And, sadly, not all topnotchers end up winners.

Long is the list of valedictorians finishing flunkers—in life’s true test.

Loren Legarda was a No. 1 senator, but she lost badly to Noli de Castro in a vice presidential contest.

Grace Poe and Mar Roxas were both No. 1 in Senate derbies, but they lost badly to Digong in the 2016 presidential race.

Closer to home, Phoenix was No. 1 in the eliminations of the ongoing PBA Philippine Cup.

It put to good use its twice-to-beat advantage by dumping its quarterfinal rival to easily enter the semifinals.

Then reality bit.

The Fuel Masters found themselves pitted againt the San Miguel Beermen, concededly the best All-Filipino crew this decade with four straight Philippine Cup crowns clinched in the last four years.

So, true enough, Phoenix got booted out, rather cruelly, as SMB cruised to a 4-1 triumph in their best-of-seven series ending the other day.

It should have been a harsher 4-0 sweep over the Fuel Masters had the Beermen not bungled 17 free throws in a 90-92 loss in Game 3.

But learning their lessons well in the true tradition of a seasoned strategist, the Beermen got their bearings back and pocketed the next two games with breathless ease to secure the first Finals slot.

It was painful enough that Phoenix drew SMB in the semifinal pairings. It was like seeing Columbian Dyip up against Golden State. Mismatch to the max.

So talent-rich is SMB that it almost naturally puts a foe’s position in peril right at tip-off.

For, historically, San Miguel, like all marquee teams, has only two goals when going to war: 1) Reach the Finals and 2) Win the title.

Only champions think that way. That’s why SMB coach Leo Austria is now in his 8th Finals. Winning six.

Doesn’t that make him No. 1?


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