By JONAS TERRADO
Paul Lee said the bitter memory of his last appearance in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals is what’s motivating him going into Magnolia Pambansang Manok’s title showdown with TNT.
The Hotshots have fallen short in their two previous attempts to lift the Jun Bernardino Perpetual Trophy back in 2018 and 2019 when they lost both times to the San Miguel Beermen.
Magnolia’s failed bid in 2019 was heartbreaking after blowing a 3-2 lead by allowing SMB to win two straight, including the deciding seventh game with a 72-71 decision that came despite holding a 17-point lead early in the second half.
That continues to haunt Lee, who is more than ever determined to finally capture his first All-Filipino crown.
“Until now, it’s still painful kasi yung chance namin na yun, yun yung pinaka close, and against San Miguel talaga,” said Lee in the pre-Finals press conference held virtually Tuesday, Oct. 19.
“Sobrang buong-buo yung San Miguel na yun. One basket away na lang kami to win the all-Filipino championship,” Lee added.
But now, Lee is confident that Magnolia can finally get the job done, especially with Calvin Abueva providing some of the intangibles the team lacked in recent years.
For Lee, it will bode well for the Hotshots as they brace for a tough championship showdown with the Tropang Giga.
“Yung run namin ngayon is a different group. Pero yung core namin intact pa rin,” he said. “With the help of Calvin, siguro mas mataas yung chance namin makakuha ng championship.
“Kasi yung nabibigay ni Calvin, sobrang iba talaga. Ang dami niyang napuno na mga pagkukulang namin sa team. I-take advantage lang namin yung opportunity na yun para hindi namin ma-feel yung ganun kasakit ulit.”
Lee has been settling for runner-up trophies in four of his previous Finals appearance in the All-Filipino tournament, including his first one which incidentally came against TNT in 2013 as a member of Rain or Shine.
He was also on the losing end against the same club in the import-laced Commissioner’s Cup in 2015 when Rain or Shine absorbed a double-overtime setback in Game 7 which turned out to be TNT’s last title to date.