SAVE the celebrations for Renaldo Balkman: he is locked in on his goal for the moment.
The Puerto Rican import was happy that San Miguel drew first blood against Alaska, 92-79, in Game One of their best-of-five semifinals series the day he turned 34, but reiterated that he won’t enjoy Saturday night too much.
“It’s always good when you get the win and celebrate your birthday at the same time. But I wish it was a championship that we won on my birthday,” he said. “We got a long series left. We got two more left. Next game on Monday.”
Balkman was at his best in the series opener, pouring 13 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and a steal, being just one of the weapons the Beermen had in their arsenal to easily overpower the Aces.
The stellar showing shouldn’t come as a surprise as the former New York Knick bared that San Miguel was doubly motivated in the game to redeem itself from its slim 105-103 defeat to Alaska back in the elimination round in Dumaguete, which was also Balkman’s first game back.
“Oh yeah, it does play a role,” he said as the memories of that tight two-point game played on his mind in the buildup for the game. “But tonight, we won. We’re not looking at the past. We’re looking to the future. We got two more left. Back in the gym tomorrow and practice, working hard for Game Two on Monday.”
Aside from Balkman, five other Beermen notched double-digits in scoring led by June Mar Fajardo’s 17 – which is exactly the kind of balanced effort he expects his team to be with the stakes this high.
After all, the goal never changes for San Miguel and for Balkman.
“I’m real motivated to get to the Finals, of course, but we got two more left. We got to get to the next one. We’ll get it though. We got to stick to the game plan. We’ll play together and go out and get a win. We got a lot more left in the tank. We’ll play a little harder, game-by-game, step-by-step, we’re going and get one on Monday,” he said.
As for Balkman’s 34th birthday celebrations, he said that those can wait.
“I’ll save my celebration later this year when I get a couple days off, when I’m not playing basketball. What counts right now is winning a championship,” he said.
“Everybody says happy birthday to me. It’s great win for us and it’s a great day for me. But tonight, I’ll be in my home. I’ll go back home, get some rest, and get back on Monday. I’m not young anymore so I’ll get my rest.”