MANILA, Philippines – The GlobalPort Batang Pier made franchise history on Sunday when they nipped Ginebra, 84-83, in overtime to reach the semi-finals of the PBA Philippine Cup, where they will face off against the top-seeded Alaska Aces.
It is the first time in the team's history that GlobalPort has made the semi-finals, but Terrence Romeo, Stanley Pringle, and the rest of the Batang Pier are not simply "happy to be here."
"Nag-bunga 'yung hard work namin," a beaming Romeo told reporters after their game against Ginebra. "Kailangan, mag-ready kami. Sobrang hirap kalaban ng Alaska, so ayun, focus lang kami."
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Alaska defeated GlobalPort, 123-104, when they met in the eliminations behind a balanced team effort that saw eight players score in double-digits. Romeo had 33 points in the loss, and Pringle had 16 points and seven rebounds.
After beating the most popular team in the league, however, GlobalPort's confidence is skyrocketing.
"Sa tingin ko, ito na 'yung simula nag pagtuloy-tuloy ng pag-taas ng morale namin," said Romeo. "Basta, 'yung ginawa naming good habits dito, ma-apply namin sa next game namin, tapos 'yung mga mali namin, ma-less namin."
"Tingin ko, kaya namin makasabay sa kanila," he added.
The backcourt tandem of Romeo and Pringle will surely be tested against Alaska, one of the best defensive teams in the league. They allow only 95 points per game and hold opponents to 40.1% shooting from the field; their defensive rating of 95.4 is second only to Ginebra (93.4).
GlobalPort's defense will also be put to the test. Alaska is no slouch on offense, scoring 101.3 points per game – third in the league – and as Romeo noted, they do not have a dominant scorer who takes the bulk of shots.
"Hindi pwede na si Calvin (Abueva) lang ang i-stop namin," Romeo said. "Kailangan i-stop namin ang buong Alaska."
"'Yung Alaska, hindi sila more on isang player ang umi-score ng marami. Kalat-kalat ang score nila, so dito kami masusubukan talaga," he added.
The semi-finals will also be a showdown of veterans against young guns, as GlobalPort head coach Pido Jarencio observed.
"That team is a good team, talagang beterano," Jarencio said. "Basta kami, 'yung energy and 'yung hunger, kailangan nandoon para maka-match up sa kanila."
"First time namin with this group," Romeo also said. "'Yung group namin, first time kami lalaban (sa semifinals), and sana, maganda ang kalabasan."
The best-of-seven semifinals series starts on January 4.
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