April 07, 2018

Chito Victolero says Magnolia could have given San Miguel a tougher challenge if Pingris, Melton around

MAGNOLIA Pambansang Manok could have given San Miguel Beer an even better shot for the PBA Philippine Cup championship had injured starters Marc Pingris and Justin Melton were around.

Coach Chito Victolero isn't making any excuses and believed the better team won in the best-of-seven series that came to a close Friday night after the Beermen dug deep in their bag of experience to pull off a hard-earned victory in double overtime, 108-99, and claim a fourth straight All-Filipino title.

But the presence of Pingris and Melton certainly could have added more teeth to the Hotshots' first finals stint since their grand slam season in 2014.

"I don't want to make an excuse that we have some injuries, but that' the reality. We have two players injured, two key players, two of my best defensive players, so it's very hard," said Victolero at the end of Game 5 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Pingris (ACL injury) and Melton (strained hamstring) went down one after the other during Magnolia's semifinals series against NLEX.

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Victolero stressed Pingris, an eight time member of the All-Defensive team, could have been an added body against four-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, who was an unstoppable force in the middle during the title-clinching game after posting a new career-playoff game of 42 points and 20 rebounds.

The presence of the 6-foot-10 Fajardo in the paint gave the Beermen an imposing 52-28 points advantage inside.

"Mas maganda siyempre kung kumpleto, at least kahit papaano, mas magandang laban sana," said the Magnolia mentor. "But everything happens, hindi naman natin sinasadyang magkaroon ng injuries."

Despite the injuries, the Hotshots gave themselves a good account in the series, which they opened behind a 105-103 stunner.

"Even when we're down, even when we're undermanned, they kept on fighting," Victolero pointed out.

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The Hotshots actually seemed ready to extend the finals to another day after leading by as much as 23 points in the third quarter of Game 5. That was until San Miguel willed itself back and showed what a champion's heart was all about.

In the end, Victolero said the Beermen deserved this one, which saw them complete history by becoming the first team in PBA history to win the Philippine Cup championship four straight seasons.

"The experience and chemistry of San Miguel showed. Yung chemistry, teamwork, and mental, importante yun, e," he said. (RG)