San Miguel bench new puzzle to solve for Magnolia coach Victolero

MANILA, Philippines – The San Miguel Beermen will be synonymous to their mighty starting lineup. But just when opponents least expect it, their second unit prove they can be just as lethal.

Magnolia head coach Chito Victolero lamented the emergence of San Miguel's bench that factored in the Hotshots' 87-111 Game 3 loss in the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup finals on Sunday, April 1. 

"I think we need to find ways how to match up or surpass the energy of the second group of San Miguel," said Victolero. 

The Hotshots were within striking distance after 3 quarters, 68-75, before running out of steam in the payoff period with the Beermen outscoring them, 36-19.

In that pivotal 4th-quarter assault, San Miguel had reigning 4-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo on the bench and its second unit did most of the damage, combining for 21 points. 

"Game 1, medyo nag-explode si June Mar, but in Game 2 and Game 3, medyo na-limit namin siya. The only problem naman, 'yung bench niya. So, siguro we just try to pick our poison now," said Victolero.

(In Game 1, June Mar exploded but in Game 2 and Game 3, we were able to limit him. But the problem is their bench. So I guess we just try to pick our poison now.) 

"'Yun ang lakas ng San Miguel talaga. Kung ma-stop mo si June Mar, other guys will step up. You guard the other guys, June Mar will explode 30, 40 points. So mahirap kalaban talaga."

(That is really San Miguel's strength. If you stop Junr Mar, other guys will step up. You guard the other guys, June Mar will explode for 30 or 40 points. It is really hard playing against them.)

It was not the case in series opener, however. 

This time, the Beermen had 33 points from its bench, with Brian Heruela chipping in 11 markers, 8 coming in the 4th quarter alone, and Gabby Espinas adding 9. 

"After Game 1, I expected naman na gagamitin niya (coach Leo Austria) 'yung bench. But hindi ko naman in-expect na ganoon 'yung lalaruin talaga ngayon. And we have a problem with Heruela. Last game Heruela and (Matt Ganuelas) Rosser. Now, even Espinas contributed doon sa game," said Victolero. 

 (After Game 1, I expected that coach Leo Austria will utilize his bench. But I did not expect that they will play like this. And we have a problem with Heruela. Last game, it was Heruela and Rosser. Now, even Espinas contributed in the game.)

Despite the Beermen holding the momentum after winning the last two games, Victolero has not lost hope that his Hotshots can make the best-of-7 series a more interesting affair.

Game 4 is on Wednesday, April 4, at the Araneta Coliseum. 

"Hindi kami titigil hangga't hindi kami nakakakita ng paraan paano manalo sa series na ito."

(We will not stop until we find a way how we can win this series.) –

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.