For Renaldo Balkman, his return to the PBA would be so much better if it will culminate with a championship.
Balkman has come close to that dream of his, as the Beermen will be marching on to the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup semifinals after sweeping long-time rivals TNT Katropa in their best-of-three quarterfinal series, Tuesday night.
The 33-year-old forward emerged as the hero in San Miguel’s 106-102 Game Two victory over the Texters, as he calmly sank all four of his free throws inside the final 45 seconds to break the 98-all deadlock and put the game away.
“Those guys got lot of fight, lot of will in the game. I’ll be in a foxhole with every guy here any day. Right now, we’re in a foxhole fighting going to the championship. That’s our goal,” said Balkman moments after the win.
“Like I told y’all from day one, it’s a blessing to come back here and play in the PBA. To win it will be an even better blessing for me,” he added.
The defending conference champions have forged a best-of-five semifinal duel with the Alaska Aces. And for Balkman, this will be the most opportune time to get back at the Milkmen, who finished the eliminations as the two-seed.
Balkman won’t forget what Alaska did back in May 19 in Dumaguete City. It had been his debut for San Miguel, but the Aces gave him a rude welcome, 103-105, no thanks to Vic Manuel’s running one-hander at the final buzzer.
“That was my first game,” the 6-foot-8 Balkman recalled. “I feel like we wasn’t really jelling well, but hey, you can’t win them all. Those kind of games coming up, the semifinals, it’s a must-win for us. The first one is key.
“We gotta practice the next few days. We’ve seen them ’bout a half a month ago and we’re seeing them again, that’s a good thing. That’s motivation.”