San Miguel Beermen’s journey in the 2008-2009 AFC Cup

January 26, 2009

The All Filipino Cup finals bid of my favorite PBA team, the San Miguel Beermen, is already gone, with the team bowing down to Talk ‘N Text in the semifinals match, two games to four.

Hailed as one of the best teams on paper before the start of the tourney, SMB had a good start in the conference with a 7-2 record at the end of the first round of eliminations. In the second round, however, the tides changed as SMB had 2-7 record while other teams just got better. This delegated the Beermen to the wild card, a surprise to many spectators and fans considering how strong lineup of the team is.

Wild card match vs. Coke


Playing its first do or die game in the conference, SMB’s game against the Coca-cola Tigers was somehow a walk in the park for them. Nic Belasco did not suit up, Asi Taulava obviously played hurt, and then interim coach Kenneth Duremdes was still getting the hang of things. It was an easy win for the Beermen.

Wild card match vs. Air 21

If SMB’s match against Coke was a piece of cake, going up against a stronger and more complete team of Air 21 was a different story. It was considered as an acid test for the Beermen. Fortunately, SMB won their second do or die game in a row with better execution and rotation in the end game.

Quarterfinals vs. Ginebra


Barangay Ginebra Kings is one of my most hated PBA teams ever (along with Alaska) and going up against them in the playoffs has always been tough. Thanks to their “never say die” attitude and their huge fanbase (which can fill Araneta in a snap).

At a glance, SMB’s lineup is considered stronger compared to BGK’s, having a deeper bench against an almost depleted BGK team. But take away the players match-up and one will see that all things are just equal with the Beermen known to be playing “without passion/heart” (since the post-Uichico and MBM era).

However, the Beermen showed in this series they got heart… finally! Game 3 of the series, the third do or die game of SMB this conference, was the most memorable one. Down by around 20 points in the third, SMB climbed back at the end of that quarter and fought a nail-biting finish against the Gin Kings in the fourth canto. Dondon Hontiveros, the Cebuano hotshot, carried the team in his back, hitting big shots after big shots after big shots.

That game is one of the most, if not the most, epic comebacks I have ever witnessed. And what made it sweeter is the fact that it was made by my most favorite team against my most hated team. 😀

Semifinals vs. Talk ‘N Text


Commentators regarded this series as a match made in heaven, with two of the strongest teams on paper battling a finals seat against each other. It was really a great matchup considering that both teams are loaded with firepower in every position.

Well, as they say, all good things come to an end. Sadly, SMB lost the series to TNT. Here are some of the factors I think contributed to the loss:

1) Poor, poor, poor rebounding – Dorian Pena, SMB’s incredible hulk inside, got injured in game 2 and he no longer played in the series after that game. Ali Peek and Harvey Carey had a feast inside with those offensive rebounds and easy tip-ins. Our poor rebounding obviously killed us. Had Pena played in games 3, 4, and 6, things might have been different considering how close those games were. With Pena around, he gets at least five boards a game. That may have spelled the difference.

2) Timeouts – Coach Siot Tangquincen had problems managing his timeouts. Came crunch time, he was left with nothing and players (particularly rookie Bonbon Custodio) had to take ill-advised shots. With no timeouts left, how can he map out a decent play when it’s winning time already?

3) Poor substitution/rotation of players – I mean, really. There were a lot of questionable rotation patterns in this series. Like putting error prone Wesley Gonzales in the rotation when the other team is making a comeback? Benching Danny Seigle and/or Dondon Hontiveros when you need a firepower? Benching Mic Pennisi and/or Marc Pingris when you need a rebounder? I mean, really?

—————————————————————————————————

Anyway, things already happened. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. The Beermen gave it their all. It’s just that the other team they were up against was the better team.

Actually, I would love to see this SMB team compared to the soft and sissy MBM team before.

Seeing the glass as half-full and not half-empty, there are a lot of good things that happened to SMB this season:

1) Danny Seigle already proved his detractors wrong by showing that he can still carry his team. He may not gain his old form at all but somehow, he still has “IT”. He and Dondon, IMHO, are now the go-to guys of the team.

2) Pingris already got his confidence back. We saw from him the energy guy that he used to be for Purefoods in the SMB-TNT series. It proved to be crucial to SMB especially in Game 5.

3) JWash, Mic, and Bonbon were great addition to the team. JWash’s career was “resurrected” when he transferred to SMB this season. What a great guy to complement Danny S. In Mic, we have a tall guy who can shoot 3s. Bonbon, well, I think he made the SMB lineup complete. He was the answer to SMB’s need for a slasher. Give a couple more seasons to this rookie and I’m sure he will grow up and become more mature.

So there. It has been one hell of a roller coaster ride (and a thrilling one at that) for the Beermen this conference.  Here’s to hoping that SMB will have a great conference in the Fiesta Cup.

Photo credits: pba.ph and mypba.com

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