After becoming the first team in the history of Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) to bounce back from a 0-3 deficit to tie a championship series, defending champion San Miguel Beermen are aiming to surpass Ginebra’s impressive 1991 comeback.
The Beermen was down 0-3 in the best-of-seven finals of the PBA Season 41 Philippine Cup against the Alaska Aces but recovered to win Game 4, 5 and 6 to tie the series to 3-3.
San Miguel Beer could join Ginebra in the Philippine sports history book if it beat Alaska in Game 7 on Wednesday.
The Gin Kings were then led by playing-coach Philippine basketball living legend Robert Sonny Jaworski with Rudy Distrito, Leo Isaac and Chito Loyzaga, when they bounced back from a 3-1 deficit to beat Shell in the 1991 championship.
As a veteran of that historic game, Isaac warned San Miguel Beer that it is not going to be so easy.
“Our team took the task one game at a time although I have to admit that our morale was down when we’re down by 1-3. But everything changed when we tied it at 3-3,” Isaac, now the head coach of Blackwater team in the PBA, told The Manila Times in a phone interview.
“But I don’t count Alaska out in the series. They really wanted to win too and they also deserve the crown. It’s a do-or-die game and only the toughest team will survive. Every second and possession is vital just like in our championship series in 1991,” he added.
Isaac said that Beermen coach Leo Austria is in a good position because they have the momentum of the series and a four-day rest before the do-or-die battle on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“During the first three games, [Arwind] Santos and [Marcio] Lassiter were missing most of their shots but from Game 4 to 6, they were becoming more confident and their making a lot of shots then,” he said.
“For coach Alex [Compton], it’s not going to be that good because he might feel uneasy right now. But the big question is, how long San Miguel Beer will last? If they get tired in Game 7, Alaska has a chance.”
The return of 6’10 Cebuano center June Mar Fajardo from a left knee injury boosted San Miguel Beer’s morale to win Game 6.
The 6’4 forward Santos, who missed a lot of shots in the first three games, posted 22 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks in Game 5.
Santos had 11 points in Game 4 and 10 in Game 6, while Lassiter had 26 points.
“That’s what I’m talking about – the shift of momentum but everything can still happen,” Isaac said.
Loyzaga, who were also with Ginebra during that 1991 game, said that San Miguel Beer’s historic comeback victories against Alaska in Game 4, 5 and 6 were also a historic feat.
“All those achievements from day 1 up to day 6 will become useless. It’s a now or never situation for both teams,” said Loyzaga, whose father Filipino basketball legend Caloy Loyzaga passed away recently. “Mental toughness is the key. Alaska will also have a four-day rest to regroup. Honestly, they [San Miguel Beer] can also do what we did before but we can’t set aside Alaska in this series,” he added. “We are different from today’s San Miguel Beer. It was very memorable and I’m so happy to become a part of that Ginebra team before.”
It is interesting to note that San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria was a member of the Shell team that lost to Ginebra in that historic 1991 game.