MANILA, Philippines – San Miguel Beermen head coach Leo Austria took no time catching his breath when he faced media following a stunning 78-70 loss to the Alaska Aces in Game 3 of the 2015 PBA Philippine Cup Finals.
He spoke with a tone of conviction, his voice straining to contain his anger and disappointment, as he took "full responsibility" for his team's loss and at the same time alluded to his players' shortcomings.
"I would like to let you know that this loss of San Miguel is my full responsibility. And this is my fault. I was not able to control the game," said the usually chipper coach.
"This is is my responsibility. I'm in charge of that, but we lost this game because of a lot of turnovers in the fourth quarter and because of the defense of Alaska. And it's beyond my control what happened in the fourth."
The Beermen appeared to have broken free from the shackles Alaska put in place in the opening period where they were limited to just 8 points, the team's lowest first quarter output in the last 5 conferences according to PBA Head Statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
San Miguel's offense revved up in the second and third frames as they dumped a combined 56 points on Alaska for a commanding 64-46 lead entering the final period.
But by sheer relentless defensive effort and tremendous patience, the Aces chipped away at the lead and held the Beermen to just a single field goal (1/15) for the entire fourth period — the franchise's worst fourth quarter field goal shooting — and only 6 points for the last 12 minutes. That, too, was another franchise record for fewest fourth quarter points scored.
"I thought all the while we prepared hard and we know the situation but I'm not the one playing inside the court," Austria pointed out. "All I can do is just remind them of what to do, especially on the press break and the inbound play. I know what to do and I keep on telling them, but still, we committed turnovers. Maybe that is the factor."
"In the endgame, you cannot expect a call from the referee even if there's a foul because this is a championship game. I guess it's beyond my control," he added.
San Miguel was clearly rattled by another comeback from Alaska similar to what they did in Game 1 where they rallied from a 22-point deficit to win in overtime.
June Mar Fajardo (13 points, 9 rebounds) could barely get the ball without a turnover happening in the process. San Miguel also fell prey to Alaska's efficient fastbreak plays as the latter dominated that department, 20-9.
When asked whether Austria was implying that players disobeyed his instructions, he clarified that wasn't the case, but his players could not seem to execute what he's asking of them.
"No, they're the ones controlling the game. All I can do is let them run my plays. And they're running it but most of the time we get a turnover on the entry pass. And as I said, that's beyond my control," Austria explained.
"We're trying to get June Mar the ball in the shaded area but it won't get there."
"I keep on telling them and reminding them of what to do," he continued. "We know what they are doing and we know what we are doing, and we know what kinds of plays we're going to run. But inside the court I cannot control them anymore."
The respected coach, however, is not about to give up his first shot at a PBA title.
San Miguel will look to tie the series up and avoid a 3-1 hole with Game 4 to be played on Wednesday, January 14.
"This is a long series. We are capable of winning 3 or 4 consecutive times. We demonstrated this in the semifinals," Austria declared.
"This team has the potential. Just the fact that we got the 20-point lead in this game. The potential is there, it's up to us. But I can only do so much." – Rappler.com
PBA 2015 Philippine Cup Finals: