Photo by the PBA Media Bureau
Considering the circumstances, did it matter if Magnolia was healthy or not?
Let's face it, folks. With a player of June Mar Fajardo's caliber, he alone makes defeating the San Miguel Beermen more difficult, to say the least. But you have to remember: the Beermen also have Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot, Arwind Santos and, Marcio Lassiter. Now that's a real "Fab Five". What's scary about this current version of the Beermen was the fact that they didn't have their top rookie, Christian Standhardinger in the Philippine Cup. Just imagine the damage that the Magnolia Hotshots could have absorbed if Standhrdinger was around in the Finals of the PBA Philippine Cup.
Thankfully, Standhardinger wasn't around for the Beermen because even before the Finals, the Magnolia Hotshots were already undermanned after losing their energetic power forward, Marc Pingris who sustained a season-ending injury in Game 1 of their semifinal series against the NLEX Road Warriors. Then, Justin Melton, one of Chito Victolero's best defenders from the guard position, missed the rest of the Finals after playing sparingly in Game 1 owing to an injury as well.
However, the Hotshots fought all throughout the series despite the mere fact that they were without two players who also played during the last time the franchise won a title, a part of the second Grand Slam of the legendary Coach Tim Cone.
Magnolia took Game 1, erased a double-digit deficit in both Games 2 and 3 before faltering in the end. They had a chance to tie the series in Game 4 but faltered, again. What's worse was the fact that Magnolia had a 23-point lead in Game 5 and yet, San Miguel came back roaring and forced not one but two extra periods, en route to a 108-99 Game 5 victory which clinched San Miguel's 4th consecutive Philippine Cup championships.
Could Pingris and Melton have helped Magnolia against the Beermen?
There are two ways to answer that question:
- Yes. Marc Pingris alone could have helped Ian Sangalang, Rafi Reavis and the rest of the big men of Magnolia in terms of limiting the production of June Mar Fajardo. Mind you, Pingris is still one of the best defenders the league has seen despite a dip in his offensive production. Justin Melton, on the other hand, could have provided the additional firepower especially with Paul Lee struggling at times especially in the 4th quarter. And Melton could have also helped in slowing down Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross.
- Yes, having Marc Pingris and Justin Melton in the line-up could have enabled Magnolia to extend the series to a Game 6, to say the least. But in the end, the Beermen's starters are just too much for the Hotshots to handle. They couldn't even keep June Mar Fajardo in check as Fajardo exploded for 42 points and 20 rebounds in the title-clincher. Either way, healthy or not, Magnolia just didn't have enough to overthrow San Miguel.
At the end of the day, you hope for the best then make do with what you get, right, Nick Fury? And that's exactly what Magnolia did against the mighty Beermen. Magnolia knew they were heavily understaffed and yet, that didn't stop them from competing. If anything, the performance of Magnolia in this series shows us what the Hotshots are capable of if they are healthy.