THE very same man who was at the receiving end of import Renaldo Balkman’s wrath a week ago, also happens to be the guy who tried to lift up Petron’s spirit prior to its PBA Commissioner’s Cup game against Rain or Shine in Panabo City over the weekend.
Aware they will be playing without an import against the Elasto Painters, Arwind Santos took the opportunity to give the Boosters a much-needed pep talk before the 78-69 upset victory over Bruno Sundov and Rain or Shine.
The 6-foot-4 Santos, who was shoved and choked by Balkman during his infamous outburst in a game against Alaska last week, said the recent banishment of the talented but temperamental import could have been a perfect excuse for them to just throw in the towel against the Elasto Painters.
But the former FEU Tamaraw superstar said he took it upon himself to challenge each of his teammates to work extra hard as they looked forward to grinding it out with an all-Filipino cast against Rain or Shine.
“May import sila, pero di na namin iniisip na wala kami. Kinausap ko ang mga teammates ko kaya maganda talaga ensayo namin,” Santos confided to Spin.ph shortly after arriving in Manila from Davao.
The soft-spoken Petron forward said he also singled out 6-foot-10 rookie big man June Mar Fajardo during his talk, encouraging him to be ready to slug it out with Rain or Shine’s huge frontline of burly Beau Belga and JR Quinahan, not to mention the 7-foot-3 Sundov.
The end result had Fajardo coming through with an inspired play - defending Sundov well throughout the game, grabbing rebounds, and mocking the presence of the import inside the paint by scoring a team-high 20 points on 9-of-13 field goal shooting to go with 13 rebounds.
“Sinabi ko na kaya naman niya (Fajardo) eh. Kung baga, makukuha niya ang respeto ng nagbabantay sa kanya at i-dominate niya talaga yung gitna. Di naman kasi siya basta-basta mahihinto,” explained Santos, who finished with 13 points for the Boosters.
Santos said it really felt good to be able to beat a championship-contending team like Rain or Shine, proving once again that Petron is now playing more as a unit rather than a team relying on individual talent.
“Sana magtuluy-tuloy na ito lalo na pagdating ng bagong import namin,” said Santos, whose team will be joined by Balkman replacement Rodney White on Monday when the Boosters resume practice at the Acropolis gym in Libis, Quezon City.