Chris McCullough delivered the game-winner for San Miguel, but it was Christian Standhardinger's stellar work on defense against TNT import Terrence Jones that made a Game 5 comeback possible on Wednesday.
Standhardinger produced a series-low four points, but coach Leo Austria singled him out for turning the tide in the fourth quarter, where the Beermen clawed back from a 16-point deficit to eventually take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"He is my hero tonight," Austria said. "Even though he's not scoring or getting a lot playing time, he did his role really well for us in containing Jones from the backcourt to the frontcourt. He really played good defense and he never minds whether or not he has a lot of playing time or not."
Austria turned to Standhardinger and called him off the bench with 7:24 left in the game as San Miguel sought an answer for Jones, who terrorized them for 32 points in the first three quarters.
The ploy worked. Standhardinger's defense on Jones from the halfcourt right up to the basket appeared to frustrate the KaTropa import, who only scored three points on zero field goals the rest of the way.
"Nothing happened in the last seven and eight minutes and that's the time we decided we wanted somebody who can pressure Jones because they have the tendency to bring the ball down slowly to eat some precious minutes," explained Austria.
"Christian did a good job denying him the ball whenever he doesn't have the ball. I think that's one of the keys. That's why I commended earlier Christian and besides C-Mac, he's one of our heroes tonight," he added.
As good as his defense was on Jones, none of Standhardinger's work on that end was bigger than the turnover he forced on the TNT import with 40 seconds to go. That later led to a tough McCullough finish at the rim with 28 seconds remaining.
"It was a tough, tough game. We were right on the line of losing but we kept fighting and that's what we stand for," Standhardinger said.
"I think every player cares about the win. But that doesn't change the fact that the team comes first, and Coach Leo puts me in and I try to give my best, and today it wasn't about scoring because we have many great scorers. It's about playing defense and I tried my best to do that," he continued.
History is on SMB's side entering Game 6 on Friday as the Beermen have been able to close out their foes the last six times they won a Game 5. Austria acknowledged that the job is far from done as SMB braces for a fierce fightback from a TNT side that's on the ropes.
"It's a lot of hard work to do because we know that this is the first time that Talk 'N Text lost in a back-to-back. I'm sure they will bounce back hard in the next game or else, they will lose the title. Their back's against the wall and we know they will do anything just to even the series. But in our case, we have a chance and we will not let this slip away if we have the opportunity," he said.