Mendoza: Will Lady Luck smile again on Austria?

Al S. Mendoza

SAN Miguel Beer fights for dear life today in a development no one ever expected.

How could a team that sped to the quarters with ludicrous ease find itself suddenly in dire straits?

And to also think that SMB had also breezed to the semifinals in one fell swoop, taking down Rain or Shine in one game to avoid going through a two-game wringer?

What went wrong with a squad soaked in success since Day One?

Is there a discipline breakdown?

Are the stars burned-out?

Or has the ride around town just coming to an end, finally winding down after a night of painting the town red?

Peaking too early, maybe?

Prematurely leaping for joy?

Look at the picture: The Beermen buried in a 3-2 fix.

Instead of being mightily ahead, the Beermen are bizarrely behind.

Roles have been reversed. The one-game advantage advanced TNT to within a night of grabbing a coveted place in the Philippine Cup finals.

I salute KaTropa, particularly its coach Nash Racela.

A big league rookie, Racela is now proving he belongs.

He rotates his men as if he’s an old hand in the game. A greenhorn disguised as an oldtimer.

In Game 5 on Thursday was Racela at his finest.

He put in a combination of veterans and youngsters, adroitly shuffling them like a deck of cards that baffled SMB coach Leo Austria no end.

How can an upstart do such a grizzly thing to a battle-scarred bench tactician like Austria?

Instead of Austria, twice winning this crown the last two years, acting out the teacher’s role, it became the exact opposite.

The underdog has suddenly become the overdog, lecturing lessons on the bulletin board in completely ignoring, undermining, his teacher’s authority.

One more loss and the party’s abruptly cut short for the Beermen, the winningest team in PBA 2016 with two conferences won.

But while TNT’s 101-94 Game 5 victory was a killer, SMB had helped dig its own grave in that defeat as it missed close to 10 free throws near the dying minutes of the game.

Still, all is not lost for the Beermen, who are famously known to spring back to life—chiefly on the sheer magic of luck.

Didn’t SMB win this crown last year from a 0-3 hole en route to a record-setting 4-3 triumph over Alaska?

Again, Austria leans on Lady Luck.