LEO Austria has said it best: “My players made me look good as a coach.”
One of them made him survive by controlling the boards with impunity.
One of them made him a champion for the seventh time in nine Finals wars by stopping a potential game-winner with just ticks left.
The rest of his players made him the luckiest coach for the longest time.
With June Mar Fajardo making himself mightier than the Great Wall of China, Austria’s boards were as secure as your deposits in a Swiss bank.
Fajardo’s 32 rebounds, if translated arithmetically, would total to 64 points. Even more.
SMB’s 72-71 squeaker over Magnolia typified luck’s significance.
It was a contest so close that the one who scored the marginal shot would be the game’s instant hero?
Alex Cabagnot made it 72-71 for SMB but there were still 57-plus seconds left.
Cabagnot’s acrobatic shot was classic.
Jumping from the side, Cabagnot mocked Paul Lee’s airtight guarding in firing the marginal shot.
It was far from over, though.
In the heat of the touch-and-go affair, turnovers bizarrely jarred the endgame.
After Marcio Lassiter fumbled an inbound pass, Magnolia had a chance for the potential winning shot, 17 seconds left.
But Gio Jalalon, unguarded, bungled it, completely flubbing a short stab after receiving a well-executed assist from Lee under the basket.
Fajardo would next grab his 32nd rebound. Foul.
But with 4.8 ticks left, Fajardo missed both charities—keeping the door ajar for Magnolia.
Lee snatched Fajardo’s second miss.
That’s when Arwind Santos, hitting his usual threes at will earlier, had the presence of mind to double-team Lee and caused the usually steady Hotshot guard to fumble as time expired.
The Game 7 triumph did not only make SMB a record fifth straight winner of the PBA Philippine Cup.
It also proved once more that luck is a primary component of almost every title-clinching victory.
Look, SMB scored only five second quarter points, and was down 17 points in the third period.
Yes, Austria’s Beermen made him look good—but with the aid of luck. Again.