Five years after clashing in a championship series, the San Miguel Beermen and the Magnolia Hotshots are set to renew their rivalry in the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup Finals which is scheduled to start on Friday, March 23 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The two teams last met in the Finals during the 2013 Governors’ Cup. The Hotshots, then known as San Mig Coffee Mixers, prevailed over the Beermen, then known as the Petron Blaze Boosters, in seven games.
In the Philippine Cup, Magnolia and San Miguel last faced each other in the Finals 24 years ago, during the 1994 All-Filipino Cup. The Beermen, who were then coached by Norman Black, defeated the Hotshots, then known as Coney Island Ice Cream and mentored by Chot Reyes, in 6 games. The Magnolia franchise was still owned by the Ayala Corporation at that time.
A lot has changed since the two teams last figured in a title series.
June Mar Fajardo was still a gangling rookie then. Fast forward to the present and the 6-foot-10 native of Pinamungajan Cebu has already collected 4 league MVP awards. Not only did he match the total of legends Ramon Fernandez and Alvin Patrimonio, he did it in a more impressive fashion by bagging the awards in consecutive seasons.
Along with Fajardo’s dominance was also San Miguel’s. The Beermen have been undefeated in 5 trips to the Finals, including the last 3 stagings of the Philippine Cup.
The Hotshots, on the other hand, have traveresed the opposite direction.
After winning their title series against the Beermen in 2013, they went on to win the next 3 conferences to complete a rare Grand Slam.
They would endure a title-less season the following year. And to make things worse, Tim Cone, the chief architect of the team’s 4 straight championships, was transferred to arch-nemesis Brgy. Ginebra by SMC Sports Director Alfrancis Chua, who is concurrently the Gin Kings’ Governor.
Two more forgettable seasons would follow before the Magnolia franchise would hit pay dirt in the form of another Finals appearance, courtesy of second-year coach Chito Victolero.
During the press conference for the upcoming Finals series, the Governors of both teams made if clear that their respective teams would go all-out for the title.
“I guarantee you, hindi namin ibibigay sa kanila on a silver platter ang championship. We’re not just here for the experience. We’re here to win the championship,” said Magnolia’s Rene Pardo.
“Actually, talagang pinaghahandaan namin ito mula all-Filipino, it is considered the most prestigious among the three conferences of the PBA. Walang sister team-sister team dito. Kumbaga ang mga players na yan, ang nakataya dyan ay bonus. Fight yan to the last talaga. Kung sino ang matirang matibay, congratulations,” was San Miguel’s Robert Non’s reply.
“As long as both sides give their all and forget that they’re on the same conglomerate, it’s the fans who are going to be the real winners,” added Pardo.