Posted in Sports

TOGETHER: The Secret Behind San Mig Super Coffee Mixers’ Success (Pt. 2)

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TOGETHER, 1-2-3, TOGETHER!

This is the battle cry of the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers. After winning the championship with the heroics of Denzel Bowles, just like what I said in my previous blog, the ups and downs did not stop.

The then B-Meg team made the Governors’ Cup Finals led by one of the (if not the most) most energetic import, Marqus “Mr. Everything” Blakely. The team went toe to toe against their future rival, Rain or Shine. Rain or Shine would eventually get the moniker of “B-Meg’s/San Mig Coffee’s Nemesis”. It was a hard fought series seeing coach Tim throwing a chair during game 1, Paul Lee injuring his shoulder, starters getting benched during a crucial part of the series, B-Meg being down in the finals (1-3), James Yap bringing his Big Game after Big Game, and a tooth and Nail game 7 that broke every B-Meg fan’s heart. We aimed a back-to-back crown and it wasn’t granted. But to keep my sanity (This is the hardest part of being a sports fan – to try to find reasons on why heartbreaks happen), I just said “Hilaw pa. Baka sa susunod mas malaki ang reward.”

“Medyo hilaw pa din.” That was what I said during the first two conferences of the 38th season of the PBA. At that time, the Purefoods franchise changed its name again. The team was labeled as the San Mig Coffee Mixers and maybe, just maybe, because it caused confusions about the team’s name because there were San Miguel Beermen and the mother company itself, San Miguel Corporation, the team became San Mig Super Coffee Mixers. It was painful seeing your team falling short in the semis (both in the Philippine Cup and Commissioner’s Cup). It was like the “gasgas” cliché of having the chance to play in the Finals is so close but yet so far. Again, just to reiterate how I felt, it was just too painful. I know I should be proud but I also know that this team is way better than how they finished the first two conferences. And that made it more painful.

After the painful defeats and after seeing Marc Pingris and the rest of the Gilas Pilipinas succeed in the FIBA Asia Championship, which helped me move on from those heartbreaks, the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers were back for some redemption. Marqus Blakely also came back just to give a statement that he and his team is not done yet. The conference was not that easy but we managed to go back to the Finals. It was like 10 years ago. I mean it. We won the championship against a very good team, Petron. It went down the wire. We saw coach Tim not talking to his players during a blowout game, Elijah Millsap (Petron’s import) destroying us with his triple-double games and June Mar Fajardo proving that he was worthy to become the overall first pick of the draft. But with all those odds, my team stayed together. We gave emphasis more on the team’s collective effort and skills rather than each individual’s capabilities. THE TEAM STAYED TOGETHER. THE TEAM BECAME THE CHAMPIONS. That was a sweet championship. Little did I know that there’s a sweeter thing that could happen if the team will continue staying together.

In the 39th Season, San Mig added rookies led by the future of this team, Ian Sangalang (I mean it when I say that he is the future of San Mig.), Justin Melton, Isaac Holstein and JR Cawaling. Many fans trusted coach Tim and the whole organization in getting these players from the draft. I was included in that group of hopefuls.

The Philippine Cup started and It was not the way we wanted to begin our quest for another title. It was a pain in a fan’s eyes to see his/her team losing, and it was not just a lost. We experienced straight losses where some have been blowouts. The worst was against our nemesis, Rain or Shine. Again, it happened. Coach Tim did not talk and let the players take over in the second half of that game. He was frustrated and so were we. “Kaya pa ‘to.”, I just said to myself. I will never lose my hope over this team. I love this team and it has saved me from the saddest situations. Madrama pero totoo.

And there, San Mig regained its morale. The team improved its record to 7-7, which was good enough to get to the playoffs. “Shit. Talk n Text agad.” It was said with full of nervousness but we survived it in another do-or-die Game. San Mig then faced Ginebra (the most anticipated series). Wow, just wow. The two most famous ball clubs in the PBA will face each other in a freaking seven game series. That’s just too much but the fans loved it especially because it went down the wire with James Yap and PJ Simon scoring 30 and 29 respectively. How can a team stop that big production from those superstars? It’s just unimaginable.

Again, we won as a team. We won together. But the conference didn’t end just yet. The Mixers faced their rival, Rain or Shine in the Finals. It was another thrilling series because of the “Chess Match” that Coach Tim Cone and Coach Yeng Guiao (Not including the walkout scene) have put on. It was exciting. Every possession in every game was heart pounding. San Mig may have been defeated in the first battle but the team won the war. The team won together. TOGETHER. Back to back championship was pleasing. Tim Cone and his men deserved it but staying together could give them more.

Days after winning the most precious championship of the season, the team continued playing and staying together in the Commissioners Cup. James “Mr. Everywhere” Mays was situated as the new import. It was another odd conference for us. The way to playoffs became difficult. We almost got defeated by Alaska but since a do-or-die has already been our game, San Mig managed to go to the Semis and face a hungry team in Air 21. I wouldn’t deny because I was a part of that group who said that it will be easy for San Mig to be in the finals because it was just Air 21. Just Air 21? All of us were wrong. They forced another do-or-die game against us and all of a sudden, we got worried. But together, we survived. On to the finals, again!

In the Finals, it was a clear thing that Talk n Text was the favorite team to win. Why not? They were riding on a 13 game winning streak without any defeat in this conference. What made me believe that we can win the series is when coach Tim said in the interview that they need to find ways to make the TnT team feel awkward and uncomfortable. DEFENSE. It was San Mig’s defense that made them win the first game. Yes, Talk n Text tasted their first loss in the conference and they really looked uncomfortable during that game. Game 2 saw Talk n Text bouncing back. Nobody said it will be an easy series. Neither of us even dreamed of it. Game three was a neck-and-neck battle. James Yap made his presence with his heroics as he banked on a killer basket. We finished the game only up by two but we took it. We became closer to 3-peat. Again, nobody said it will be easy. I even thought of the Game 5 already when I saw my team being down, 17-1 in the first period of Game 4. The second unit came led by Justin Melton, Ian Sangalang and Mark Barroca. They are part of the togetherness of this team. They are essential and they proved it in this game. Barroca and Yap took over in the final quarter to get the third straight championship. Magoo Marjon, the commentator of that game was so emphatic when he announced this: “San Mig Coffee, champions once again!” Wow! It was a 3-peat! It was our third straight crown and fourth over-all during the Tim cone era. This team is so good and I know that it was an understatement!

Governors’ Cup started even though our party wasn’t over yet but the team has to go to work hard again. Why? Because they have the chance to write a fantastic story in the history. I’m talking about the possible Grand Slam. How could it be possible? First, Marqus Blakely came back to chase that honor. Second, it was all about staying and playing together.

This team had its momentum before the playoffs started. San Mig faced San Miguel Beermen and won against them in the quarterfinals. This set-up a rematch against Talk n Text. People were saying that they were on for a big revenge because the Mixers kept on breaking their championship dreams. When you face Talk n Text in a series, you can’t be too confident even if you’re up, 2-0 in the series. And there, Talk n Text won the next two games to force another do-or-die game against us. Whew. “Bawal sa San Mig ang fan na may sakit sa puso. Ang hirap.” Those were my thoughts after Game 4. Luckily, or maybe it’s the destiny that made it happen, San Mig Coffee survived, AGAIN. The Grand Slam hope is still alive!

How beautiful it would be to see your team chase the rare Grand Slam feat against their nemesis? It happened. RoS had the chance to try to stop San Mig Coffee again. Since the first conference, I have been saying that Rain or Shine is the team that has the resources to beat San Mig’s defense and triangle offense. This team is resilient, exceptional and they got a fiery coach who can motivate anyone. Every player in that team was driven to get revenge from their loss in the first conference.This should be the hardest series that the Mixers will go through. Pressure to get the Grand Slam was there, they were tired, and they could be just intimidated by their foes because they know that RoS will never back down. As expected, the series was forced to a sudden death game five where the winning team will have the chance to write their history. It could be about winning a rare Grand Slam or spoiling it. There’s one last do-or-die game to get the championship, to get the rare feat, to be the best team in the PBA, and to build a dynasty.

It was the hardest game of the series and maybe the hardest game of the lives of the players who were involved in it. Both teams shared the biggest pressure in closing out the game. James Yap and Mark Barroca couldn’t sink their free throws in. Paul Lee and AZ Reid on the other hand couldn’t make their three-pointer to send the game to overtime. That maybe the talk of the town but how about the Big Game that James Yap brought? What about that? He came up big and clutch. He took over and made sure that his team will win the Grand Slam. And yes, he was successful in carrying the Mixers. We got the Grand Slam! Thanks to Big Game James, his million moves and the triangle offense that ran around him all throughout the game with the calls of Coach Tim Cone. Those guys are my idol. Tim is my hero. (How should I end this paragraph without shedding a tear?) I’ll just go back to Grand Slam.

It’s been a week and days will still pass but I will forever be plagued with what my team has reached. It’s just amazing to see the players, the coaches and even the people from the bench (ball boys, water boys etc.) staying together even to the hardest part. Fans like me are included, too. Neither bandwagoners nor haters would feel the sweetness of this experience.

San Mig Coffee’s Grand Slam will be remembered eternally. Coach Tim and his core players will obviously be part of the PBA Hall of Fame in the future but one thing shouldn’t be forgotten. This team was made to be together to win championships. This team didn’t give up with their battle cry, which is TOGETHER, 1-2-3, TOGETHER!

Thank you, San Mig Super Coffee Mixers! See you on another roller coaster ride! We, the fans will never get tired of supporting you. We are all in this journey together.

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