One thing is certain in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup—the All-Filipino champion will come from the San Miguel Corp. (SMC) umbrella.
First to land in the finals was San Miguel Beer, which came back from a 2-3 semifinals series deficit to oust TNT KaTropa.
Now the Beermen, the defending champions in the tournament, await their survivor of duel of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Star, two teams that are also under the SMC fold.
The Gin Kings and the Hotshots were playing in the winner-take-all Game 7 as of press time and which ever team came out victorious, San Miguel head coach Leo Austria expects nothing but a tough battle for the All-Filipino diadem.
“It will be very tough. Come (finals) series, you expect that it will be a war,” said Austria, who is eyeing to lead the team to its third straight Philippine Cup crown.
The Beermen completed their comeback against KaTropa with a 96-83 victory in Game 7 on Monday with the latter playing minus their top player Jayson Castro, who suffered a foot injury in Game 6.
Austria knows either team poses a great challenge for them with the Hotshots and the Gin Kings playing their best basketball at this moment.
“The Star Hotshots are getting a lot of better games and same with Ginebra. And they (Gin Kings) will only get better because of the experience of coach Tim Cone,” said Austria.
“And even though we are sister teams, we all play with pride. Everybody wants to win a championship,” the two-time Coach of the Year winner added.
The Beermen have a score to settle with Ginebra as they were ousted by the Gin Kings, then bannered by import Justin Brownlee, in the best-of-five semifinal series of the Governors’ Cup.
Austria added the crowd will play a role of Ginebra gets the second finals seat but he welcomes the challenge.
The retooled Hotshots are also blossoming under the tutelage of rookie coach Chito Victolero and their new run-and-gun style, anchored by Paul Lee, could give them a tough challenge in the finals.
“The reality is we cannot choose. At least we an extra day to rest. But I just hope we can win it again because the players really want to be part of history,” said Austria.
Game 1 of the best-of-seven championship series will begin on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.