MANILA, Philippines -- Aside from his desire to help Magnolia reach its third All-Filipino finals in four seasons, veteran point guard Mark Barroca has another source of motivation in the Hotshots' campaign.
With the PBA holding its Philippine Cup in a "semi-bubble" in Bacolor, Pampanga, the 35-year-old Barroca has been unable to go home to his wife and children -- a daunting prospect as his wife, Ruselle, is pregnant.
Ruselle is expected to give birth to the couple's third child this month, and Barroca admits that it has been quite difficult for him to be away from his family during such an important time.
"Siyempre 'yung motivation namin is 'yung families. Ako, motivation ko 'yung wife ko, buntis, manganganak na wala ako doon," said Barroca after leading the Hotshots to an 81-69 triumph over the Meralco Bolts in Game 4 of their best-of-seven semis series.
The veteran guard put up 17 points and six assists in the win, including a clutch three-pointer that helped the Hotshots fend off the Bolts' fourth-quarter rally.
Barroca admits that he struggled with his focus at some points -- something that can't be helped given his worries for his family.
"It's the first time na magkalayo kami ng asawa ko, na wala ako sa tabi niya," he said.
He is thus grateful for his coach and team management who have helped him ensure that his wife and children are well taken care of even though he is in the semi-bubble. Magnolia coach Chito Victolero, in particular, has been supportive of his situation and understood his earlier woes in the conference.
"Tinulungan ako ni coach, na-encourage sa ganitong sitwasyon, nag-uusap kami ni coach na ganito," Barroca said. "Binigyan niya ako ng peace na maglaro lang, bahala na si Lord na ano ang ibibigay niya."
"Kasi lahat naman, suporta, sinusuportahan ako ni coach sa pamilya ko na may titingin sa pamilya ko doon, na nagpapasalamat ako kay coach na nabigyan ako ng peace sa isip ko, na maglaro lang talaga dito ng focused," he added.
With Barroca playing with renewed motivation, the Hotshots are just one win away from punching their ticket to the finals of the Philippine Cup. If they succeed in outing the Bolts, it will mark the third time in four seasons that Magnolia has reached that phase of the All-Filipino Conference.
"Ngayon, focused ako," Barroca assured. "Ito ito 'yung motivation ko, na ginagawa ko para sa kanila 'to."
He is confident that his teammates will have that same focus as they look to close out the series in Game 5 this week.
"Good job kami ngayon (Game 4)," said Barroca. "Collective effort, both ends, offense and defense. Especially talaga, nag-step up sa defense."