by Jonas Terrado
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero is treating the deciding Game 7 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals on Wednesday as something he would rather savor than endure.
“Let’s enjoy the party on Wednesday,” said Victolero after the Hotshots failed in their first crack of ending the Beermen’s four-year reign as All-Filipino champions in a 98-86 setback last Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Victolero had every reason to keep an optimistic approach with the Hotshots still have one final chance at lifting the prestigious Jun Bernardino Perpetual Trophy.
The difference, however, is that they’re on a level playing field with the Beermen, who refused to surrender their throne after pulling out an efficient showing on both ends of the floor.
June Mar Fajardo got plenty of help in Chris Ross, Christian Standhardinger and Marcio Lassiter, whose slump appears to be a distant memory after back-to-back 20-point games, as the Beermen forced the 27th Game 7 in the league’s 44-year history.
Their experience of surviving a 0-3 hole against the Alaska Aces in the 2016 Philippine Cup with the famous comeback known as “Beeracle” should give the Beermen the edge.
But the Beermen were to quick to disagree on the notion, given how the Hotshots have gained some valuable experience as well in winning last year’s Governors’ Cup crown.
That is why Arwind Santos stressed the importance of gaining the tempo for the deciding match and maintain San Miguel’s reputation as the league’s best all-Filipino squad.
“Siguro pati mga ibang weapon na nangangalawang sa bahay dadalhin na namin para lang matetano agad namin sila (Maybe we should bring our weapons that are corroding so we can quickly infect them.),” said Santos.
It will be Santos’ sixth Game 7 of his PBA Finals career, one shy of current active held by Magnolia’s Rafi Reavis.
Reavis has won four Game 7s with Coca-Cola, Barangay Ginebra and the Purefoods franchise.
As in the past, Reavis is expecting nothing but a positive result.
“I hope this will be the same as the ones I’ve won in the past,” he said.
That would happen if Mark Barroca could recover from a mediocre Game 6 showing.
The hero in Magnolia’s thrilling 88-86 win in Game 5, Barroca was held to just six points – a far cry from his 22-point show the last time.
Despite Barroca’s shooting woes, Victolero remains unfazed.