Facing the team that denied its entry to the finals last conference, the Star Hotshots brought its A-game in the fourth period to pull off a come-from-behind win over the June Mar Fajardo-less San Miguel squad.
Star coach Chito Victolero believes beating San Miguel was a big morale booster for the Hotshots which lost to the Beermen in this year’s Commissioner’s Cup finals.
“I’m very happy kasi bihira matalo yung San Miguel. Kaya rin pala naming talunin yung San Miguel. Very important ito sa future. Makaharap man namin sila, at least we know na may chance kami,” said Victolero.
The absence of Fajardo, according to Victolero, was a factor, although he believes the Beermen are still very much capable of winning games even without the reigning three-time Most Valuable Player. Case in point: San Miguel’s “Beeracle” in the 2016 Philippine Cup finals where they erased a 0-3 deficit and won the series.
“May factor rin yung pagkawala ni June Mar. Pero yung San Miguel nagi-step up naman yan kahit wala si June Mar,” added Victolero.
For his part, San Miguel coach Leo Austria wasn’t surprised with Star’s performance. Several times in the semifinals series of the Commissioner’s Cup, the Hotshots got the Beermen on the ropes but the more-experienced squad was able to prevail.
“Kung titingnan ko yung Final Four ng first and second conferences, yun yung mga contenders. But this is a new conference. Yung Star is isa sa mga contenders and they are playing inspired basketball. Hindi pa sila natatalo,” Austria said.