ARWIND Santos and Marcio Lassiter just showed what the true heart of a champion really is.
For your information, Arwind Santos and Marcio Lassiter talagang kumakagat na yung cramps. And I kept on asking them, 'you want to be relieved' especially on defense," recalled Austria about the tense moment at the San Miguel bench during overtime play.
The two San Miguel starters were already suffering cramps late in Game 5 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals against Magnolia Pambansang Manok, but refused to go down and instead, held on to help the Beermen complete an epic comeback and win their fourth straight All-Filipino championship Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Santos and Lassiter conspired with Best Player of the Conference June Mar Fajardo in a telling fourth quarter rally to salvage a game that earlier appeared to be fast slipping away from the Beermen's hands after trailing by as much as 23 points.
Fighting pain and fatigue, the defending champions put their acts together in the ensuing two overtime periods to finally conquer the Hotshots, 108-99, and end the best-of-seven series, 4-1, before a crowd of 10,054.
Coach Leo Austria admitted in the post-game interview about Lassiter and Santos' condition down the stretch.
"But they said 'they will stay.' So I let them stay, and that's a good attitude of a competitor."
Santos finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds including 3-of-4 from three-point range, while Lassiter added 16 points and four assists. The two played for more than 50 minutes along with Fajardo - who had 42 points and 20 rebounds - and Chris Ross - who had a near quadruple-double with his 13 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, and eight steals.
Incidentally, Santos - along with Ross, also admonished the Beermen inside the dugout at the half following a flat start that saw the reigning champion down at 53-37.
"Hindi naman tayo ganun maglaro, hindi tayo yun," Santos said about what he told the Beermen at their dressing room during the break.
Even after that, the Beermen fell behind, 71-48, in the third period, before they closed the quarter on a 12-3 run to stare at a 12-point deficit heading into the fourth.
It was a sign Austria was waiting for.
"I told them ibaba lang natin ng 14 or 15 points. We have 12 minutes (to go) and possible pa ito," he said. "And it happened."
Their championship poise in full display, the Beermen went with their business with clockwork precision, with Santos' three-pointer finally tying the game and sending it into overtime.
By the time the game went into a second extra play, San Miguel knew it was theirs for the taking.
"Dito nasubukan yung San Miguel. Kahit sabihin mong nagkaron ng bad start yan,pag gustong bumalik, babalik at babalik yan," said Santos.
The heart of a champion truly is.(RG)