MANILA, Philippines – When they were both playing in the NCAA, Baser Amer and his powerhouse San Beda College squad made a habit of breaking the hearts of Scottie Thompson and his upstart University of Perpetual Help team.
For three consecutive seasons, Amer and the Red Lions dismissed Thompson and the Altas in the Final 4 – beginning in Season 88 and culminating in Season 90, when San Beda claimed an 81-75 victory over Perpetual en route to their fifth straight NCAA championship.
Thompson did not get his payback until they were both rookies in the PBA, and even then, he had to wait until the season-ending Governors' Cup. There, Thompson and the Ginebra Gin Kings outlasted Amer and the Meralco Bolts in six classic games to win the crown.
The 6-foot-1 Thompson became a hero to the Barangay faithful, thanks to his incredible hustle and court vision. A year later, Thompson is looking to repeating the feat against Amer, as Ginebra and Meralco brace for a rematch in the Governors' Cup Finals.
"Siguro, dahil pula sila noon," Thompson said in jest, referring to San Beda's red-and-white threads.
"Ngayon, ako naman 'yun pula," he pointed out. "So sana, ma-eliminate namin sila ulit."
But Thompson acknowledged that it will not be easy for Ginebra to retain their title – and Amer is one of the biggest reasons. The former San Beda point guard has improved by leaps and bounds in his sophomore year in the PBA, and his playmaking figures to give Ginebra a headache in the Finals.
"Sobrang ganda ng nilalaro ni Baser," Thompson admits.
"Kaya sila naging successful ngayon dahil sa nilalaro niya. Malaking addition din 'yung pagdagdag ni Kuya Ranidel (de Ocampo) at Mike Tolomia ngayon," he added. "Mas madami silang bala this year kumpara last year."
Thompson is relying on Ginebra's massive frontline and the tactics of coach Tim Cone to push them ahead of Meralco once more, as the Gin Kings eye a second title in four conferences.
"Sobrang blessed na this early in my career, ganito na. Grabe, naka-tatlong Finals na pala ako," said Thompson, who won NCAA MVP honors in Season 90 but never once made it to the league's Finals.
"Sobrang thankful ako at happy. Happy ako na na-draft ako sa Ginebra, and thankful ako sa tiwala sa akin ni coach," he added.
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