Austria lauds SMB's "pride" in second half comeback

Austria lauds SMB's "pride" in second half comeback

Junemar Fajardo scores on a layup against Sonny Thoss. PBA Media Bureau
By Ivan Saldajeno

BATANGAS CITY--With huge quarterfinal implications at stake, Alaska and San Miguel engaged in a crucial showdown at the Batangas City Sports Center on Saturday night.

However, it seemed like the game was already a foregone conclusion by halftime when the Aces built a lead as high as 15 before settling for a 50-41 lead after the first 24 minutes.

The Beermen then came out of the locker rooms with refueled fire, outscoring the Aces, 33-21, in the third quarter and adding 35 more points in the final canto to take the 109-96 victory.

[Related Story: SMB rolls in second half to stop Alaska in crucial clash]

"What prevailed in our finish is the pride, because they know the importance of this game," Coach Leo Austria told Dugout Philippines after the game.

SMB only made 6-of-21 baskets in the first period for a measly 29 percent shooting, but the improved scoring-wise in the final three quarters, going 50 percent (9-of-18) in the second quarter and 53 percent (21-of-40) in the second half.

"I thought that, in the first half, we were losing in this game because of the intense pressure of their defense, and it seemed na they'll go all the way. But sabi ko nga, because of the experience and pride nung team namin, we're able to recover," Austria continued.

For him, however, it would not be possible if not for their unselfishness down the stretch.

"I reminded them, 'You have to believe in your teammates. Trust their importance.' And that's what happened," Austria, whose team dished 15 assists in the second half, further said.

Now at 7-2, the Beermen, as per Austria, now has an "85 percent chance to get one of the top two slots," which equates to a twice-to-beat advantage in the next round.

They can officially seal the quarterfinal bonus if they beat either the Kia Picanto on Friday night or the Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters on Feb. 28.

By virtue of the winner-over-the-other rule, a win against either of the two will also give the Beermen the top seed over the Magnolia Hotshots.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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