CALAMBA -- Juan Gomez de Liaño is certainly a big loss for Nueva Ecija, especially heading to the Grand Finals of the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 President's Cup presented by TM this Friday.
But it's not like the Rice Vanguards haven't learned how to cope with the absence of the University of the Philippines star.
Since Gomez de Liano's injury back in Leg 1, Nueva Ecija has shown great resolute in rallying the troops together and maintain its status as one of the contenders. It even made the Finals in Leg 2, falling only against the mighty Family's Brand Sardines Zamboanga City.
With that Gab Banal expects nothing less from the Rice Vanguards.
"I'm impressed with how our team played, especially that we've been practicing without Juan," he said, with Nueva Ecija making do with him, Jai Reyes, Tonino Gonzaga, and Maclean Sabellina.
"With what we achieved so far, I'm proud of my brothers because how we performed especially mabilisan lang yung preparation kasi nagkaroon ng circumstances na di namin kontrolado. I'm proud with how we've performed lately."
Nueva Ecija claimed the three-seed in the Grand Finals and is awaiting the winner of the knockout game between Sarangani Marlins and the Petra Cement Roxas ZN.
To Banal, the Rice Vanguards still faring in the top four despite them playing without Gomez de Liano is a testament to the collective drive of the squad -- something that will further be magnified with the stakes at an all time high in the Grand Finals.
"For us, we've been treating each leg like the Grand Finals," said Banal. "Hopefully, we'll be able to execute what we learned and not repeat our mistakes especially in the games tomorrow. These guys are vets already. They know what were supposed to do."