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The San Miguel Beermen assembled one of the best lineups in PBA history and came close to winning all three championships in a season for a couple of years.
2019, however, saw the highs and lows during their quest.
After making their already formidable line-up that won the first two conferences of the 2016-17 season, they obtained the rights to the 2017 first overall pick in a highly controversial trade and drafted Christian Standhardinger before the start of the 2018 season.
The former number one draftee, however, had to sit out the Philippine Cup that year due to playing out his contract with Hongkong Eastern in the Asean Basketball League.
Ironically, the Beermen won handily the Philippine Cup that C-Stan sat out, lost in the Commissioner’s Cup Finals and did not even make the semifinals of the Governors’ Cup.
2019 was different as San Miguel paraded their prized acquisitions, Standhardinger and Terrence Romeo who they acquired almost simultaneously with Standhardinger, along with their old reliables led by maybe soon to be six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, to take another shot at the grand slam, supposedly the second after the one won by the 1989 squad.
True to form, the Beermen flashed their might as bullied their way to the Philippine Cup title over the Magnolia Hotshots and had to change imports early in the Commissioner’s Cup to ward off the tough challenge of the Talk N text Ka Tropa.
Their Governor’s Cup campaign got off to a good start as they were able to get a prolific import in Dez Wells and got a top four finish in the Terrific 12 Tournament where they faced legit NBA superstar Lance Stephenson.
Another early struggle that may have lead to an ugly practice incident and the loss of Standhardinger through a trade did the chances of the Beermen.
The Beermen had to let go of Standhardinger, who has been said to becoming uncomfortable coming off the bench for Fajardo.
Further, they had to replace Wells and suspend locals Arwind Santos, Kelly Nabong, and Ronald Tubid indefinitely at the late stages of the eliminations due to an ugly fight that occurred during one of their practices.
After these incidents, the Beermen could not get their mojo back and settled for the fifth seed after the eliminations.
The bad news is that perennial Governors’ Cup contender and sister team Ginebra San Miguel is at fourth and standing in their way in the quarterfinals, looking to deliver the knockout punch.
As it turned, the Beermen could not solve Justin Brownlee and the Barangay and bowed out, losing the first of the supposed two consecutive games they should win due to a twice-to-beat disadvantage.
The fans of the Beermen are hoping they can still make another run at the grand slam.
Afterall, their lineup is still great. Standhargdinger’s swap partner, Moala Tautuaa, isn’t a bad replacement of a big man off the bench or to be Fajardo’s sidekick during the Philippine Cup. Aside from Fajardo, they still have Romeo, Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot, and the rest of the gang intact.
Last year’s Beermen are the ninth team in PBA history to win the first two conferences in a three-conference format year and failed to win the third one.
This feat was also duplicated by the aforementioned 2016-17 Beermen; 2010-11 Talk N Text Ka Tropa; 1998 Alaska Milkmen, who practically gave up their second grand slam by lending four of their starters to the Philippine Centennial Team; 1995 Sunkist Orange Juicers; 1986 Tanduary Rhum Masters; 1985 Great Taste Coffeemakers; 1977 Crispa Redmanizers; and the 1975 Toyota Comets.
By Armando M. Bolislis