The change was inevitable.
But how San Miguel coped with the lack of a six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo was the question that hovered over the five-time defending champion Beermen in the 45th season.
In the first properties of their season and in
In the fourth quarter against a Magnolia team that reached the final in the last two editions of the PBA Philippine Cup, the beers showed that they remain a force even without the cornerstone of their franchise.
"I think this game made it clear to people that they cannot underestimate us," said coach Leo Austria after the Beermen in the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday had a victorious 94-78 victory over the Hotshots.
While the Beermen no longer had a nimble, wide center to throw the ball in color, they still have exceptional playmakers who run the show and can find open teammates in the course of their offense.
Terrence Romeo and Chris Ross efficiently quartered the attack, while Mo Tautuaa showed that he can be a deadly partner to the San Miguel elite guards, ending with 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Commissioner Willie Marcial will meet with the Board of Governors on Tuesday evening, where he will present all possible PBA scenarios that will suspend the Philippine Cup due to the COVID 19 outbreak.
Arwind Santos played heavier minutes and quietly submitted a double double with 18 points and 15 rebounds, which was accompanied by five steals. The three-point shot remained a weapon when the Beermen hit 12, when Santos hit four and Romeo, Marcio Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot knocked down two each.
"In the last two weeks before the start of the season, our exercises really took off," said Austria. "We were able to establish the chemistry that we knew would have to compete without June Mar."
The season opening duel was a rematch between two teams that fought for the All Filipino crown last season when the Beers won 7 by a slight margin in a winning all-rounder game.
San Miguel turned it into a showcase of its undeniable firepower, a statement that it was a team that had the artillery to deal with Fajardo's absence due to a possible shin injury at the end of the season.
"We only play ball," said Ross. "We are a really talented team. The thing is, if you have a player like June Mar, that's a six-time MVP, you take care of him, you let everything go through him and he makes it easier for everyone." INQ
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