Austria’s tough love pays off as San Miguel evens PBA semis
MANILA, Philippines – It took a warning, a serious conversation, and just enough tough love, but the San Miguel Beermen finally played with a real sense of urgency.
The defending champions responded well to a disappointed head coach Leo Austria following a Game 3 loss and routed the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 105-92, to even the best-of-7 semifinals series at 2-2 in the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup.
Austria, who led the Beermen to two championships last season, was understandably cross after his team dropped a tight 111-106 ballgame and fell 2-1 in the series on Saturday, January 9. He did not hide his frustration and called out his team for their lack of discipline, even warning players that he won’t always be a jolly, mild-mannered coach.
“I have to do that for them to learn. I’m happy they responded, they have a different approach to this game. Maybe because we were on the brink of elimination because it’s rare for teams to come back from 3-1 and we’re able to tie,” said Austria on Monday, January 11.
“I think it’s a blessing in disguise when we lost in that third game because everyone spoke up about their opinions.
“As a coach I had to do something, to get mad for them to respond. I’m happy. It’s really a blessing in disguise that happened.”
Austria was satisified with his team’s strong start as San Miguel raced to a 19-7 lead and ultimately set the pace to their liking for the rest of the game.
He also praised his players for stepping up and supporting reigning back-to-back MVP June Mar Fajardo, who finished with a series-low 33 points, 16 rebounds and 6 blocks.
Four other Beermen were in double figures led by Marcio Lassiter’s 20 points on 4-of-4 makes from distance. Arwind Santos (19 points), Chris Ross (13 points), and Alex Cabagnot (12 points) rounded out the key contributors in the game.
“They had a sense of urgency and a little bit of pressure for them to work hard,” Austria said.
San Miguel barely gave its foe a chance, effectively answering every Rain or Shine rally. The killer blow came on a 23-3 blast late in the third quarter for the 20-point lead the Painters would never recover from.
The Beermen also hit their opponents where it hurt most: rebounding.
San Miguel won the battle of the boards, 59-37, with Fajardo asserting himself especially on the offensive glass for 10 offensive rebounds and a team total 16 second chance points.
Rain or Shine lacked muscle underneath without Raymond Almazan, who is nursing a right ankle sprain. The team was likewise held back in running with the absence of an extra burst of energy usually provided by guard Jericho Cruz, who hyperextended his left knee in Game 3 and did not play Monday.
Austria offered the third seed Painters, who was limited to their first below-100 output of the series, might be feeling the fatigue of playing through the quarterfinals, unlike the second seed Beermen who had an outright semis berth and had a 20-day lay-off.
But winning Game 4 just means the series is now a best of 3. At this point Austria wants to ensure the sense of urgency never leaves his players. Game 5 is on Wednesday, January 13 at 7 pm. (SCHEDULE: 2016 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals)
“At 2-2 it’s nobody’s ballgame but what’s important is these players now have momentum because they know we can win this series, unlike if we dropped to 3-1.”
#PBA: Coach Leo Austria interview after San Miguel defeated Rain or Shine in Game 4Posted by Jane Yvette Bracher on Monday, 11 January 2016