February 10, 2018

Leo Austria: We can't afford another meltdown

San Miguel Beer has just been stung hard and its bid for a coveted placing now hangs in the balance. But coach Leo Austria remains unperturbed.

In fact, Austria related there were no angry outbursts or tongue-lashing that came from him following a shock 96-106 loss to Blackwater last Friday that cost the Beermen their solo leadership in the PBA Philippine Cup.

"Reminders lang sa kanila, kasi baka ma-aggravate pa situation," offered Austria inside the team dugout at the Cuneta Astrodome.

"I just told them na it's going to be tougher from hereon if we continue to play like this, na we cannot afford another meltdown like this."

Austria was referring to the way his charges failed to sustain their fine start that netted them an early nine-point lead. Then they simply crumbled when the Elite made one surge after another in the second half, more so in the fourth period.

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The reigning back-to-back Coach of the Year could well understand the sense of urgency Blackwater translated into game anchored on an excellent defense on SMB prized center June Mar Fajardo, who notched 12 points, 14 off his pre-game average, and 12 rebounds.

"Alam natin na this game was a must-win for them," said Austria. "Their backs are against the wall. Kung natalo sila then malamang na isa na sila sa mga mag-e-exit. They really came out hard and sabi ko nga they know how to beat a team with a big man.

"That's what happened. They were able to limit June Mar's production offensively and defensively. Give credit to their coaching staff, maganda game plan nila against us," added Austria.

His Beermen should have been braced, but lacked the effort, according to Austria. "On our part, we simply did not play according to our gameplan," he stated.

"The effort was not enough to stop their scorers. Talagang they were able to dictate the tempo of the game, but on our part complacency is the culprit. After a good start in the first quarter we thought we can beat them easily. Nag-relax kami, nagkaroon sila momentum, nag-gain ng confidence and sinuwerte."

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The loss dropped SMB to a 6-2 record and into a three-way tie for the lead with Magnolia Ang Pambansang Manok and Alaska.

Austria also said his team must simply work harder for it to achieve its immediate target of clinching a top two slot following the 11-game eliminations and gaining a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
The goal would be realized, Austria also said, only if they win at least two of their last three games against Alaska, Kia and Rain or Shine and both the Hotshots and Aces fail to keep pace.

"I think (an) 8-3 (record) would be enough para maka-top two, especially if Magnolia and Alaska suffer losses," noted Austria.

"Pero for sure, we must do our part and take to heart the lessons learned from this loss." (NC)