AS I said, coaching is also mind-reading.
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero, finally decoding San Miguel Beer’s penchant to pour it on in the third quarter, employed a defense that silenced the Beermen’s vaunted firepower in the final two frames of practically every game.
That was on Sunday, when SMB was limited to only 13 points in the penultimate frame, triggering a Magnolia blitzkrieg that saw the Hotshots erase a 36-45 halftime deficit and post a pivotal 66-58 third quarter margin.
Magnolia’s 30 third canto points gave Victolero’s boys enough cushion to turn back a San Miguel rally in the final quarter for a crucial 86-82 victory.
SMB’s 82 points calls to mind Victolero’s earlier statement: “If we can limit San Miguel’s scoring to below 100 points, we will surely win.”
The Hotshots miserably failed to achieve that in Game 2 as the Beermen produced a 108-101 triumph in that outing over the Hotshots.
Before that, Magnolia limited SMB to below 100 points in winning Game 1, 99-94.
Said SMB coach Leo Austria after Game 3: “Credit to them for holding us to just 82 points. I think their defense was very good tonight.”
How true. The 6-foot-8 Rafi Reavies, 41, starved the 6-foot-11 Beerman June Mar Fajardo, 29, to just 17 points.
With Magnolia’s Sunday victory, the Hotshots now tote a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven Finals for the PBA Philippine Cup.
While Magnolia’s Game 3 win was a surefire morale-booster for the Hotshots, SMB being the heavy favorite in the series, there is still a lot of basketball left for both squads.
It won’t be a surprise then if San Miguel forces a 2-2 deadlock in Wednesday’s Game 4.
But should Magnolia make it 3-1, that’s when SMB is going to be put to the test. Again.
Aren’t the Beermen the pedigreed bunch, them being the reigning four-time All-Filipino champions?
And did San Miguel not climb out of a 0-3 hole to defeat Alaska, 4-3, and pocket this same crown in 2016?
No team has ever wiped out a 0-3 deficit, easily making SMB’s feat a resurrection nearly approximating that of the biblical one.