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Road gets tougher for Beermen

San Miguel Beermen

For any team in Asia’s pro league, winning the all-Filipino crown – the first conference in a season – is the first step towards an extraordinary version of a ‘triple crown’ in the PBA.

That is why when San Miguel Beer captured the Philippine Cup in record setting fashion, it’s hard not to think about a ‘grand slam’ title, 27 years since completing a rare feat in franchise history.

But it’s not going to be easy, and Arwind Santos knows that.

“Magandang motivation sa amin yun, sa buong team, kasi ilang teams lang ang nakakuha ng grand slam. Pero alam namin na hindi magiging madali,” said the SMB forward Santos yesterday.

“Alam natin na yung ibang mga teams, well-prepared na sila for the coming conference. At talagang kami ang puntirya nila kasi nga fresh from title ang team namin,” added Santos.

The veteran Santos was in Cebu when contacted where his family stayed since Saturday for a short vacation and to celebrate his son Iogan’s third birthday.

Like his other teammates, the former league MVP Santos said he is enjoying his last day of vacation, as SMB’s practice session will resume today at the Acropolis gym in Quezon City.

San Miguel captured the Smart Bro PBA Philippine Cup with a Game 7 victory against Alaska – completing the greatest comeback in league history after it fell behind 0-3 in the best-of-seven series – last Wednesday at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.

The team missed the services of 6-10 center June Mar Fajardo in the first three games of the seven-game finals showdown due to a left knee injury he suffered in Game 6 of the semifinals versus Rain or Shine.

The reigning back-to-back MVP and Philippine Cup Best Player of the Conference (BPC) returned in Game 5 to provide a big lift, and alongside Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross, the CIGNAL-PBA Press Corps Finals MVP, SMB upstaged Alaska in the do-or-die match.

Only five teams bagged a ‘grand slam’ since the PBA started in 1975.

Crispa won it twice in 1976 and 1983, then SMB did the trick in 1989 before Alaska completed the same achievement in 1996. The last squad to win a ‘triple crown’ was San Mig Super Coffee (now Star Hotshots) in 2014.

San Miguel won two of three championships last season, the Philippine Cup and Governors’ Cup – only missing on the Commissioner’s Cup when the Beermen failed to make the playoffs.

Santos said they will take it step by step as they aim for a playoff berth first next conference, which starts tomorrow. San Miguel will open its campaign on Feb. 20 against Mahindra. (Waylon P. Galvez)