MANILA, Philippines - The San Miguel Beermen saw something positive as they languished in depth of gloom after falling short of capturing the third AirAsia ASEAN Basketball League crown against conquerors Indonesia Warriors in Saturday night’s rubbermatch at the Ynares Sports Arena.
Coach Bobby Parks and his troops are taking a glass-half-filled outlook on their fate, preferring to use the runner-up finish as jumping point to bigger, better things next campaign. Like borrowing a page from the book of reigning NBA champs Miami Heat.
"It gave us something to look forward to next year. Look at Miami. They lost in the (NBA) championship (last year) and they bounced back (to win it this year). So we have something to work harder for next year," Parks said after the top-seeded Beermen suffered a 76-78 setback to the No. 3 Warriors in the deciding Game 3.
Save for an 11-6 start, the Beermen played catch up to the Warriors all game and managed to creep to within two with still 16 seconds left. But alas, they failed to cash in on the opportunity, allowing the Warriors to escape with the crown (2-1) before a stunned crowd that included legendary cager Robert Jaworski.
The loss was somehow a letdown for the Beermen, who were pre-tournament favorites despite being in their first year in the home-and-away loop.
"Everybody hates to lose so everybody's feeling bad," admitted Parks.
"But when you look at it, we had a great season. I mean, for a newcomer in the league, to start from scratch, we had a remarkable season. We won the pre-tournament, we won the regular season and we lost the championship so for a first-year team, that’s not bad."
The seven-time PBA Best Import awardee gave credit where it's due.
"Indonesia was the better team; going down the stretch, they made the shots and we didn't make ours, that's the difference," he said.
Interestingly, it was a Fil-Am in Stanley Pringle who was the biggest thorn on the Beermen’s throat. He repeatedly eluded his guards for a layup, often with a foul to boot. He made his long bombs when left open.
"He had 28 points and his 28 were all in the flow of the game. He killed us during crunchtime; when they needed a bucket, he would give them a bucket," Parks said of the explosive guard out of Penn State.
Pringle's presence added a third punch to the solid combo of imports Evan Brock (15 points, 16 rebounds in the clincher) and Steven Thomas (10 points, seven rebounds in Game 3).
"It's like they got a good 1-2-3 punch and each of them was clicking at different times," said Parks.
Then there's Filipino imports Jerrick Cañada and Allan Salangsang to add to the mix. Backup guard Cañada from Adamson fired seven markers, grabbed five rebounds and issued four assists while forward Salangsang, despite playing with a cut above his right eyebrow, chipped in seven points and six rebounds.
"They've got a lot of character," Warriors coach Todd Purves said of his two other Pinoy crew.
"Cañada's good and hardworking and players love playing with him. Allan's good, too. He’'s made big shots for us all year and he's a competitive defender, bringing mental toughness and attitude to the team."