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PBA: Loss to Ginebra was devastating – Santos

A strange feeling was felt inside the San Miguel Beermen locker room Wednesday night when all players had already granted media interviews or had left the Mall of Asia Arena for their respective homes or gatherings.

There was no stench of beer, no courtside reporter soaked up by jubilant players, a championship trophy or a place in history to be savored.

Instead, the Beermen were pondering on the Grand Slam dream that disappeared while also reflecting on a season of success.

“Just because we didn’t win the Grand Slam doesn’t mean we didn’t have a great year,” said Chris Ross after the Beermen were given a 104-84 beating by Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the quarterfinals, ending their campaign in the PBA Governors’ Cup on a sour note.

While Ross preferred to look at the positives, the failed march to the PBA’s sixth triple crown remains a tough pill to shallow for teammate Arwind Santos.

“Parang yung tinanim mo, alam mo na ikaw ang aani, hindi mo na-ani,” described Arwind Santos, known for idiomatic comments to stress a point. “Ganun ka-sakit yun e, parang lugi ka, parang mas gugustuhin mong binagyo na lang, at least natanggap mo na kagagawan ng bagyo.”

June Mar Fajardo, still on course for a record-tying fourth Most Valuable Player despite the early exit, could only wonder if such opportunity may come again. Instead, this group of Beermen became the eighth team in PBA history to fall short of a Grand Slam.

“Nandito na kami sa ganitong opportunity nag-slip pa,” the gentle giant lamented. “Kelan pa ba babalik yung ganitong opportunity? Malay mo wala na next year, malay mo mapunta ulit kami sa ganitong sitwasyon next year. Pero tignan na lang natin yung positive side, nanalo kami nung unang two conferences.”

There’s no question that the Beermen was a cut above the rest of championships in the Philippine Cup and Commissioner’s Cup. The combination of Fajardo’s dominant presence in the paint, the all-around efforts of Ross, Santos and Alex Cabagnot, the shooting of Marcio Lassiter had left rival coaches plenty of headaches.

But the Beermen never got it going in the Governors’ Cup. Fajardo dealt with a strained calf early, management decided to replace Wendell McKines with Terik Bridgeman, who was eventually sent home when two lackluster games prompted the arrival of Terrence Watson.

It led to inconsistent performances – close calls against cellar-dwellers and flashes of brilliance against the heavyweights. San Miguel was groomed to finish in the top four, but blew an 18-point lead in a 104-101 loss to Meralco, relegated the Beermen to No. 6 and a tough task of having to beat No. 3 Ginebra in the quarters.

Expected to play well with the going got tough, San Miguel was beaten soundly by a Ginebra team determined to avenge its 107-103 defeat last Sept. 10 with a well-executed gameplan.

“I’m sure (Ginebra coach Tim Cone) watched a lot of our last game (against them) and devised a gameplan to attack the way we played them, so coach Tim’s one of the greatest ever in the PBA and playing against him in a twice-to-beat is tough,” said Ross, praising the two-time Grand Slam coach that denied their chance of joining him in that elite company.