KEEP fighting. No matter what happened, Renaldo Balkman wanted San Miguel to keep fighting.
And those words couldn’t ring any louder on Monday as the Beermen found themselves down early on in the 2018 PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals.
TNT had its guns ablaze in Game One, taking an early 10-0 lead which ballooned to 23, 46-23, in the second quarter as the KaTropa seemingly couldn’t do anything wrong in the first half.
Meanwhile, it was a complete opposite for San Miguel as it struggled to get anyone going on its side.
But Balkman has been in the game for so long to know that deficits like this aren’t overturned in an instant.
“I told the guys that we got to play harder. One thing about it is when we're playing basketball, we can’t go down 20-plus in the first quarter. That gives the other team momentum, so we got to play harder and stronger in the last couple minutes just to see if we can get back,” he said.
Slowly but surely, the Beermen made their run, trimming the lead down to 14, 62-48, at halftime before making a big run in the second half to pull off an amazing come-from-behind 121-110 victory.
“That’s the toughest part, being down so much in the beginning. And we knew we got to play harder than them,” he said. “We got to stay poised, got to stick with the gameplan and like we did tonight. We were down 23 and we kept playing basketball, one basket at a time. With them shooting like the way they were shooting, they were knocking their shots but eventually, theirs is gonna stop falling.”
“What we did, we keep playing defense, kept playing quarter-by-quarter, minute-by-minute, we stuck it out, we kept fighting, and at the end of the game, we came out with the win.”
Balkman was the torchbearer of San Miguel’s uprising, scattering 36 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks to help his side get a win away from advancing to the Final Four.
There’s no doubt how big of a confidence-booster this conquest was for the Beermen, but rather than revile on the triumph, the Puerto Rican reinforcement wants his side to learn from their shortcomings.
“We just got to have a better start. Better start or a better finish, you know what I’m saying? We got to go out there and execute our gameplan. We got to change some things and we got to have a better start,” Balkman said.
“Tonight, we had a slow start and had a great finish. Being professional as a team, playing together, we got to have a great start and a great finish. That’s being a championship team.”
Game 2 between San Miguel and TNT is on Wednesday, still at Smart Araneta Coliseum.