SMB ahead in finals duel, 3-1.
The first time San Miguel Beer and the Ginebra San Miguel franchise clashed in a PBA finals, it was during the 1989 season when SMB downed the Robert Jaworski-led Añejo Rhum in the Reinforced Conference to complete the Grand Slam.
A star-studded SMB unit that had legends Ramon Fernandez, Samboy Lim, Hector Calma, Ato Agustin, Ricardo Brown and import Ennis Whatley with coach Norman Black defeated Carlos Briggs and Añejo in five games of their best-of-seven series.
“Ang tagal na noong una na nag-harap ‘tong dalawang teams na ‘to… player pa ako nun,” said a smiling Leo Austria, who was then suited up for Shell. Austria, however, is now the coach of San Miguel – a team he hopes to lead to the Promised Land for the fourth time.
Three more finals showdown between the two teams followed with SMB beating Ginebra in the 2001 All-Filipino Conference, 4-2, and the Kings returning the favor, 4-2, in the 2007 Philippine Cup.
The last time they clashed in the finals was during the 2009 Fiesta Cup when import Gabriel Freeman powered SMB to a 4-3 win against Ginebra with David Noel.
Jong Uichico, the winning coach when SMB edged Ginebra in 2001 AFC, was on the losing end this time as mentor of Ginebra – beaten by his former assistant Siot Tanquingcen.
In all, San Miguel leads Ginebra in their finals showdown, 3-1.
Game 1 of the SMB-Ginebra fifth best-of-seven finals series is scheduled today at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
If their last elimination round game would be the basis, the first-to-win-four series in this Philippine Cup promises to be a tight contest as San Miguel only escaped with a 72-70 win over Ginebra last Jan. 8 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
In that game, reigning two-time league MVP June Mar Fajardo was held to just nine points as he shot just 2-of-6 from the field while adding 11 rebounds with four turnovers. Ginebra employed a double – sometimes triple – team defense on the 6-foot-10 center.
“That’s the way we do our thing,” said Cone on defending Fajardo. “I don’t really have a plan yet to stop June Mar… I don’t even know if there’s a plan to stop June Mar. Just to limit him but you can’t stop them.”