Leo Austria on SMB’s ‘painful’ early exit: “We’re still the best team in the last five years”

San Miguel was well on its way to completing the franchise’s 2nd Grand Slam when disaster struck.

The Beermen captured the first and second conference of PBA Season 44 and then kicked off its bid for the triple crown with 4 straight wins behind the scintillating performance of import Dez Wells.

Things were looking good even after the team lost its first game via 129-124 beating at the hands of Brgy. Ginebra.

Then came the decision which shocked the entire PBA community. The Beermen sent Christian Standhardinger to NorthPort for Moala Tautuaa in a swap of top overall picks. Tautuaa suited up in the team’s next game and looked promising as he scored 10 points in the victory over Columbian Dyip.

The Beermen, however, lost to the Standhardinger-powered NorthPort in their next outing and then to Meralco. To make things worse, Wells suffered an ankle injury against the Bolts which proved to be his last game in the league. They played without an import against Blackwater and won. The victory, however, was to be their last for the season.

The team brought in John Holland but the former NBA player couldn’t buy a win as the Beermen lost all three games with him in tow.

The final nail on the coffin was the indefinite suspension slapped by SMB managament on Arwind Santos, Ronald Tubid and Kelly Nabong due to fighting in practice. Wells, who was also involved in the scuffle, immediately left the country after the incident.

The quarterfinal loss to the Gin Kings wasn’t that surprising anymore given the chain of events leading to that do-or-die match.

“It’s really painful for us because we wanted to achieve something that’s very rare. This is not the end of the world. We still have a lot of chances and it’s up to us. Maybe next year, maybe next year,” said SMB coach Leo Austria shortly after the loss to Brgy. Ginebra.

“I think we have a chance to defend the title and win a six-peat, which has never happened in the PBA. But right now, I think we have to reflect and plan how to get this elusive title which is the grand slam. Kung sa amin ito, siguro ibibigay, kung hindi, hindi,” he added.

With two of the season’s three titles tucked under his belt, the 61-year old native of Sariaya, Quezon is not about to sulk after the team’s latest debacle.

“We’re still the best team in the last five years because we won eight championships, and in this season we won two out of three. Right now, we don’t know yet who’ll be the champion, but we already won two. We have to count our blessings. Not everything’s going to go your way. This is not the end of the world. We still have a lot of chances,” said Austria.

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