BARANGAY Ginebra San Miguel is definitely the hungrier team, but Meralco is chasing a date with destiny.
The Kings and Bolts begin their best-of-seven championship series for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Game One is set at 7 p.m., with Ginebra hoping to end an eight-year title drought while Meralco is in the finals for the first time since joining the PBA in 2010.
“It’s been eight years. We expect a tough battle with Meralco. It’s going to be a special treat for the fans,” said Ginebra guard Jayjay Helterbrand, one of the remnants of the last Kings team that won the title in the 2008 Fiesta Cup.
“I want to win it for the fans. They deserve this more than us. Hopefully, this time we can win it,” added Mark Caguioa, the backcourt partner of Helterbrand when they won their last PBA title against Air21.
The coaches have their own personal battle. Ginebra’s Tim Cone and Meralco’s Norman Black own a combined 29 PBA titles and both won a grand slam each.
Cone is in his 30th finals appearance but is eyeing his first title with Ginebra, while Black is trying to become the first head coach to win a title with four different teams. Black won with San Miguel, Sta. Lucia and Tropang TNT.
Black admitted that the Kings have the crowd as their “sixth man,” but they are confident of neutralizing their opponents’ legions of fans.
“The crowd does not play on the court. I’m more concerned of the Ginebra team,” Black said.
Jarred Dillinger, a doubtful starter in the series because of a hamstring injury, said the Bolts will play their best to shock the crowd favorites.
“I think the media and fans are expecting Ginebra to win, but we’re going to battle,” Dillinger said.
For Cone, the player to watch is veteran guard Jimmy Alapag.
“The real x-factor is Jimmy. He’s going to get these guys going. Their coach and their players, they’re very experienced,” Cone said. “I don’t think they’re expecting us to win, the fans are hoping for us to win.”
Top rookie Chris Newsome was a revelation in their semifinal series against TNT Katropa and along with Alapag and Baser Amer, they will lead the Meralco backcourt in neutralizing the deadly trio of LA Tenorio, Sol Mercado and rookie Scottie Thompson.
Meralco’s Allen Durham and Ginebra’s Justin Brownlee are also expected to play key roles in the series.
Meanwhile, PBA Commissioner Chito Narvasa announced that the Sportsmanship Award will be renamed as ‘Samboy Lim Award’ in honor of the player who is still recovering from a major stroke. Lim was the first recipient of the award in 1993.
Image credits: Nonoy Lacza