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San Miguel, Ginebra promises ‘tough battle’ in PBA Finals

Ginebra coach Tim Cone and San Miguel coach Leo Austria. PBA IMAGES

Ginebra coach Tim Cone and San Miguel coach Leo Austria. PBA IMAGES

Both teams are attached by name and have established a defining mystique.

San Miguel is the winningest team in PBA history with 22 titles and while Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s nine championships pale in comparison, it has the captured the hearts of the Filipino masses with its “never-say-die” spirit.

And on Friday the sister teams will face off for the PBA’s most coveted title, the Philippine Cup.

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“It’s going to be a tough battle, let’s get it on,” said Ginebra’s Jayjay Helterbrand Wednesday during the pre-Finals press conference at Sambokojin in Eastwood.

San Miguel has won the last two Philippine Cups under the tutelage of head coach Leo Austria, who has eradicated the stinging memory of the “Petronovela” saga.

And with that glory under San Miguel’s name, the Beermen have been regarded as the best team in the conference but Austria knows it’s not just the Gin Kings that they’ll have to face but the Ginebra faithful that can turn any venue into their own “barangay.”

“This series will be tough and exciting, especially for the fans,” said Austria who also led the Beermen to the 2015 Governors’ Cup title. “Even at the start of the season, we’ve been labeled as the powerhouse but we’re going to face the full house so expect a good show from us.”

The last time these two franchises met in was in the 2006-2007 season when LA Tenorio was still a rookie for San Miguel and Ronald Tubid was part of the winners Ginebra.

Tenorio, who laughed at the realization he’s been in the PBA for a decade now, echoed Helterbrand and Austria’s statements.

“I’m happy we’re here but our job is not yet done,” said Tenorio, who helped Ginebra upend Star in seven games in the semifinals. “For sure it’s going to be a battle, it’s going to be a fun and exciting series, and hopefully this will be a long series.”

The clash will also give fans a peak into an expected brilliant coaching battle between two champion mentors.

While Tim Cone has made a habit of steering his every team into the finals, the PBA’s most decorated coach still treats every series as a challenge.

Cone has nothing but nice words for Austria and he is aware of how he was able to take the Beermen into the right direction after their disappointing run as the Petron Blaze Boosters.

“Obviously he has a great team,” said Cone. “And I remember this well, there was the Petronovela team before he took over and he has got that team working like a well-oiled machine, they work hard together and they sacrifice together.”

Petron already had the core of what would become San Miguel’s winning teams but despite its star power, it never won any title. But Austria was able to move the team into the champion it is now.

“People can look at a talented team and say anybody can coach that team, but it takes a special guy to handle that team.”

Austria, too, has nothing but love to give to Cone whom he described as his coaching inspiration.

“Coach Tim is my idol, he’s a hard worker, he’s a great coach, the greatest in the Philippines right now, and every can lead any team into any championship,” said Austria.

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