WITH the odds stacked heavily in its favor, it seems inevitable Ginebra would take home a unique crown in the PBA Philippine Cup. The only question is when.
Leading the best-of-seven championship series at 3-1, the Kings have three chances to nail the crown starting with tonight’s Game 5 at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Gym in Angeles City.
That’s simply too much of a handicap for TNT, notwithstanding its own resolve. “It’s not yet over,” said coach Bong Ravena.
“Ginebra still needs to win one more game. Kailangan lang ipakita naming we want it more than them,” added Ravena.
“We have to play through it, as our backs are against the wall. We just have to put (everything) out on the floor.”
“Umaasa pa rin kami,” said Roger Pogoy, who has emerged as TNT’s top gunner. “Alam ko hanggang sa huli ng series, lalaban at lalaban pa rin kami.”
Determination may not be enough, however.
According to PBA chief statistician Fidel Mangonon III, Ginebra coach Tim Cone has an 8-0 record in finals where his teams led 3-0.
Throw in the fact that TNT’s main men in Jayson Castro and Bobby Ray Parks remain doubtful going into today’s game.
Castro is nursing bone spurs on both his knees that forced him to the sidelines for good early in the third quarter of an 88-98 Game 4 loss last Sunday while Parks has missed the last three games due to a left calf strain.
Cone said nothing has changed as far as his team’s mind-set of preparing for a complete TNT crew is concerned.
“Right now, I just think that we’re just going to try to go out, and whoever shows up we’re going to go out and play,” said the master tactician who is looking to annex a 23rd PBA title.
“Those are two big losses for them, but I know that Bobby Ray is supposedly close to coming back,” added Cone. “And Jayson’s a warrior, he’ll find a way if he possibly can. So, we’re going to assume that they’re both going to play on Wednesday.”
Cone issued the warning that TNT should not be taken for granted due to the Tropa’s showing in Game 4 when they almost razed an 18-point deficit.
“Even though we played (our) best game in the bubble, it was barely enough to beat TNT,” Cone pointed out. “It just goes to show how good they are, how well-coached they are.”
Ravena admitted that without Parks and Castro his team has now become the underdog in the series, which started out as a battle between two equally matched squads.
“Kung nandiyan lang sila, malamang hindi kami ganun ka-dehado,” said Ravena. “Alam mo ‘yun, may tao-tao, maganda sana rin. Kaso pag wala ‘yung dalawa, talagang ang layo ng discrepancy.”
For Ginebra ace playmaker LA Tenorio, who is himself on the verge of winning a first Philippine Cup title, it is simply a matter of Ginebra not getting ahead of itself.
“Malapit na nga ‘yung opportunity to win the All-Filipino, but kailangan ko pa rin, personally, na labanan ‘yung ganu’ng mindset,” said the 14-year veteran, who had an appendectomy just two weeks before he entered the Pampanga bubble but now has averages of 14.5 points and 6.2 assists in the finals.
“Kasi the more na isipin ko, the more na mawawala lang ako sa focus. Para sa akin, as long as hindi ko nahahawakan ‘yung trophy, hindi muna ako magiging excited,” added Tenorio.