With three hours left before the tip-off of Alaska-Globalport Game 1, Terrence Romeo was already sweating profusely, shooting jumpers alone inside an unlit Mall of Asia Arena.
Romeo then upped his shoot-around routine a notch, as he proceeded to shoot 40-foot jumpers near the half-court. He went on to make eight straight then returned to draining more threes from the usual distance He concluded his shoot-around by practising dribble pull-ups, and when he was done, other players were just starting to warm-up.
Prior to the semi-finals, the Globalport Batang Pier were just happy to be part of the final four cast battling it out for the Philippine Cup title.
Romeo himself was stoked; qualifying for the semi-finals for the first time, the superstar guard had a lot of thoughts leading to the final minute before tip-off.
“Hindi ako gaanong nakatulog kagabi kasi iniisip ko first semis ko. Ine-expect ko malaki yung crowd. Isa pa yung kaba, hindi rin nawala sa akin so ginawa ko na lang inagahan ko mag-shooting at yun nga, nag-hard work ako. Nilagay ko sa isip ko na hindi pwede umiral yung kaba sa akin,” Romeo said.
The mood changed as Globalport eviscerated Alaska’s defense en route to an impressive 107-93 win Monday night, taking a 1-0 series lead and putting the pressure on the Aces. Romeo, one of those players whose abilities are enough to light up a huge fire, led the way in Game 1.
By the 9:44 mark of the third frame, Romeo had already dropped 30 points, and ended up setting a new career-high of 41 points from only 21 shots, including six threes and 11-for-12 from the charity stripe.
“Nagbunga naman yung hardwork,” Romeo shared, although he cautioned that the team remains the underdog in the long series. “Malayo pa yung series eh. Hindi pa kami pwede makuntento sa ganito. I know hindi papayag ang Alaska na ganyan ulit ang laro nila kaya mag-a-adjust yan.”
With the win — and with newfound confidence — the Batang Pier’s collective mindset has reached another level. They are not just content to be part of the cast; they want to go as far as they can.
Head coach Pido Jarencio, who prior to the semi-finals had already stated his team has “nothing to lose”, says that right now the team is motivated.
“We know Alaska is a tough team. This is going to be a long series. Ang Alaska, they shut down teams. Pero, tonight was our night. Yung players, aggressive. Gusto talaga nila manalo ng Game 1. Iba yung makapanalo ng Game 1, may momentum kahit papano, and for sure mahabang series to,” Jarencio said.
Veteran Billy Mamaril added: “I keep telling them to have confidence that we can play against these teams. Don’t be contented with the semis. There is more basketball after.”
Even Alaska head coach Alex Compton spoke highly of the way Globalport embarrassed them in Game 1.
“They deserve all the credit. They played well. They beat us fair and square. They maximized their talent. I don’t think Pido (Jarencio) gets enough credit in putting his players in a position to be successful. They just beat us,” Compton said.
Having dealt the Aces the loss, and knowing they have the tools on how to beat them again, the Batang Pier are raring to succeed.
“Oo, ready na kami,” Jarencio said of the change in approaching the series. “Alam kasi nila na dehado kami sa laban. Alam nila na beteranong team ang Alaska, galing sa finals, well-coached. Ang focus lang namin, we do our thing, and okay na kami dun.”
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