AFTER being heavily criticized for controversial moves prior to the opening of the PBA’s 39th season, Barako Bull and its coach Bong Ramos have found vindication.
Two months since the franchise was slammed for trading away not just one but three first-round picks in the 2013 Rookie Draft, the Energy are in the quarterfinals of the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup and pitted against third seed team Petron in a best-of-three series starting on Wednesday.
The George Chua-controlled franchise finished sixth in the double-round eliminations - no small feat for a team that was projected to finish dead last in most preseason polls for its decision to take in veteran players in exchange for young, untested rookies.
“A lot questioned us in the beginning, nobody believed us then. But now, nobody can believe that we placed sixth ahead of Alaska, Meralco, and other top rated teams,” said Barako Bull coach Bong Ramos, who admitted having been challenged after the Energy were ranked last in the pre-conference forecasts.
“Sabi nga nila, 10th kami sa paper, dati. Ngayon sixth kami tumapos. May chance pa kami mag semis - if God will again allow us,” he added.
Barako Bull traded away its precious three first round picks to Ginebra, Petron (later traded to Globalport), and Globalport which later turned out to be James Forrester, Terrence Romeo, and RR Garcia.
The separate deals netted the team players such as Rico Maierhofer, Willy Wilson, Mark Isip, and Denok Miranda.
Ramos said he couldn’t be any more happy and proud of the Energy especially with how the players responded to his challenge and rose to the occasion.
“I am really blessed with having the lineup I have right now. Just exactly what we wanted in our plan,” said Ramos, who had to trim down his roster from its original pool of 28 players just before the season-opening conference started.
Management is obviously elated.
“What can I say? I am so happy with how our players and our coaching staff, especially coach Bong, made a major turnaround for our team,” said Barako Bull team manager Raffy Casyao.
“It’s a sort of vindication for us. Sino mag-aakala na kami pa ang makakatapat ng Petron sa isang best-of-three affair. No one thought we’d even qualify for twice-to-win disadvantage (seventh and eighth spots). Pero sixth pa kami,” he noted.
The No. 6 seeding is the highest the old Air21 franchise has ever achieved in an all-Filipino conference under the Barako Bull umbrella. But Casyao insisted the Energy are far from finished.
“We will remain hungry. Our boys want to prove something. Coach Bong, well, he is an underrated coach, who now deserves acclaim,” said Casyao.
“We may be a heavy underdog against a tough team like Petron. Pero who knows, we beat them before. And I can say, we have nothing to lose in this series. We’ll just play them based on our guts.”