• Austria not focusing on Grand Slam


    San Miguel Beer is now a proud owner of the Perpetual Trophy for becoming the second team to win a third consecutive Philippine Cup crown after finishing off Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in Game 5 of their best-of-seven championship series on Sunday at the jampacked Smart Araneta Coliseum.

    SMB is now the only team that can win the season Grand Slam but Beermen head coach Leo Austria is not looking that far ahead.

    San Miguel matched TNT KaTropa’s feat with an All-Filipino crown hat-trick, scoring a 91-85 win over the Gin Kings to win the series 4-1.

    Beermen coach Leo Austria celebrates after SMB won a third consecutive Philippine Cup crown by beating Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 91-85, in Game 5 of their best-of-seven championship series on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. PHOTO BY RUSSELL PALMA

    It was Austria’s fourth PBA title and third straight Philippine Cup jewel.

    And now, the 1985 Rookie of the Year winner can join the elite company of Baby Dalupan, Tommy Manotoc, Norman Black and Tim Cone as the only coaches to sweep the three-conference season in the league’s 42 years of existence.

    “It’s (Grand Slam) a long shot but I’m not thinking of that. We’re the only team that has the chance to win it this season but we’re not focusing on that,” said Austria minutes after leading the Beermen to their seventh All-Filipino title and 23rd crown overall.

    “We have to focus on winning one game at a time because it is the only way to lead us to win a championship like this,” he added.

    In PBA history, Dalupan was the first coach to win a Grand Slam after leading Crispa to the feat in 1976. Manotoc led the same franchise to a season sweep in 1983.

    Black achieved the Grand Slam in 1989 with San Miguel then Cone accomplished the rare jewel twice, 1996 with Alaska and 2013 with San Mig Coffee (now Star).

    But winning the Grand Slam is not Austria’s priority, as he just wanted to enjoy their latest triumph.

    Last season, the Beermen crawled back from a 0-3 finals series deficit against Alaska and became the first PBA team to overcome that deficit and win the title.

    When asked for comparison, Austria said the 2016 and the 2017 Philippine Cup titles were both special to him.

    “Both titles are equally important. For me, it’s the highlight of my career because there are only two teams that accomplished this three-peat. It is very hard to win a three-peat in All-Filipino because it’s the most prestigious conference,” said Austria.

    TNT KaTropa was the first team to bring home the Jun Bernardino trophy, named after the late PBA Commissioner, after winning the Philippine Cup in 2011 to 2013.

    San Miguel’s triumph on Sunday capped their impressive Philippine Cup run.

    The Beermen finished No. 1 after the elimination round with a 10-1 win-loss mark then beat Rain or Shine in the quarterfinals.

    San Miguel was tested by the Katropa in the best-of-seven semifinals as the series went to full route.

    Best Player of the Conference June Mar Fajardo and Chris Ross emerged as the consistent performers for Austria in the series but the Fil-Am guard shone brighter as he edged Fajardo for the Finals MVP honor.

    Ross averaged 12.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 1.8 steals in the five-game series to win the Finals MVP honor, his second straight in the Philippine Cup finals.

    Ross had an unbelievable all-around performance in Game 5 with 12 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and six steals.

    “I know Chris, he’s a fighter. He has a lot of things to prove. He wants to win,” said Austria of his ace guard. “I think he already found his home and his father. I think I have to give credit to Chris Ross.”


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