SAN Miguel Beer and Alaska start the best-of-seven titular series of the 40th Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup today at the Araneta Coliseum.
Both coaches Leo Austria of the Beermen and Alex Compton of the Aces refused to comment on which of them has the edge but vowed an interesting battle when they collide in the lone game at 7 p.m.
The Beermen made it to the Finals for the 31st time by sweeping Talk ‘N Text, 4-0, in the semifinals while the Aces needed six games before disposing off Rain or Shine, 4-2 in the other semis match to secure their 27th Finals appearance since 1986.
“San Miguel Beermen got the last two Most Valuable Players [MVP] and they are surrounded with good shooters. And they are playing like a team. We have got to find a way defensively to prevent them from getting easy baskets,” said Compton.
Compton, who was Austria’s assistant coach with the then Welcoat Paint in the now defunct Philippine Basketball League in 2006, expressed hope of a longer series, saying they have a big chance if it gets into full distance.
“The longer it goes, we’re still in it. If it goes deep, as long as were still playing, we still have a chance. Whatever happens, we’ll play hard,” he said.
He pointed to 6’10” June Mar Fajardo as the biggest stumbling block but stressed the importance of stopping the reigning MVP, who is also the current leader in the “Best of the Conference” player honor.
“June Mar is the most dominant player since he came in. We just have to figure out something to stop him,” he added. For Austria, it’s not going to be the Cebuano slotman alone, but the whole team finding a way to end a four-year title drought.
“Our strength might be June Mar Fajardo, but the strength of June Mar Fajardo is the team. He can’t win by himself alone. It’s should be team effort,” Austria pointed out.
Austria noted that the Aces beat them, 63-66, on their only meeting in the elimination round on November 5, despite Fajardo’s 10 points, 16 rebounds, three assists and three block shots.
“Alaska defeated us in our first game in the conference. It’s really our problem how to beat them.
Alaska is running very well like a well-oiled machine. Their cohesiveness is what keeps them winning, and their defense is really different. They keep on winning because of their defense. They are the most conditioned team in the conference today. They’re really a contender and here they are,” Austria said.