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Mo Tautuaa of San Miguel tries to sneak a shot over Cliff Hodge and Reynel Hugnatan of Meralco. (PBA Images)

SMART CLARK GIGA CITY—Losing grip of a prized possession is something that Leo Austria wouldn’t take lightly.

But the seasoned mentor insisted there were several factors that pushed San Miguel to its demise at the hands of Meralco.

“We always wanted to win but the problem is how can we win with that kind of situation we’re experiencing?” Austria said shortly after they got beaten black and blue by a determined Bolts squad Sunday night.

In an unusual sight, the once invincible San MIguel was left huffing and puffing for 48 minutes and eventually surrendered a 90-68 beatdown from Meralco at the AUF Arena.

The Bolts, seeded fifth after the eliminations, moved heaven and earth to negate the twice-to-beat advantage imposed by the Beermen.

Injuries made it difficult

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San Miguel coach Leo Austria (PBA Images)

San Miguel, winner of five straight All-Filipino championships, entered the bubble without six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo who is still recuperating from an injury. Matt Ganuelas-Rosser also opted not to join the team in Clark.

It didn’t help that they lost Terrence Romeo midway through the conference due to a dislocated shoulder. 

Injuries continued to plague Austria’s side throughout the conference, affecting veterans Chris Ross and Marcio Lassiter, Alex Cabagnot and even big man Mo Tautuaa. 

With challenges hounding San Miguel right from the start, prolonging the reign is next to impossible, according to Austria.

“What is at stake in this game is our five consecutive Philippine Cup title and I thought we would be having some sense of urgency. Our players tried their best but it’s hard because in order for us to win games like these, we need a lot of preparation. But it’s hard for us to prepare because of the injuries of the players,” he said. 

The 62-year-old tactician, though, admitted that the Bolts were way more eager to win and etch their own mark with their first semifinal appearance in the Philippine Cup. 

“We’re expecting that it would be a close fight but we’re overwhelmed by their intensity and they want to win more than we want.” 

Still, the three-time Coach of the Year is proud of what his undermanned side reached in the bubble. 

“This is a very unusual situation for everybody. At least we survived and we’re able to make it to the quarterfinals. Unfortunately we were not able to take advantage of the twice-to-beat,” he said. 

“It’s a learning experience for us. It’s really hard to maintain to be on top of the world.” 

Seasoned forward Arwind Santos also lauded the team’s effort throughout the lone conference. 

“Natutuwa naman ako sa lahat ng effort at sacrifice na ginawa namin dito kasi ‘di naman ganito kadali talaga itong bubble. Ibang klaseng pagsubok ‘to pero at least ‘di ba nakapasok tayo sa quarters at may chance mag-semis. Kinapos lang talaga,” said the 39-year-old cager.    

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