STAR coach Chito Victolero is hoping his team learned a thing or two from Barangay Ginebra as far as displaying poise under pressure is concerned.
The Gin Kings showed the Hotshots how it’s done on Tuesday night when they overcame a second straight do-or-die game – and fourth this conference – with an 89-76 victory in Game Seven of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal matchup.
“Yun ang sabi ko sa kanila, you need to get that kind of character, yung character ng Ginebra, yun ang gusto nating makuha,” Victolero said after the game. “Because ayun nga, yung chemistry nila, sobrang ganda, hindi sila nara-rattle sa pressure. They're so relaxed and they know the feeling ng maglaro sa do or die.”
“But yun nga, experience yan eh,” he was quick to add. “Sabi nga nila, experience is the best teacher. Yun lang ang maganda sa series na ito, natuto kami.”
“Nag-improve naman ang character namin, pero hindi mo pa rin mawawala yung sometimes, nagda-doubt sila sa mga nangyayari, but you know, compared to Ginebra, of course, they have the experience, and ilang taon na rin sila magkakasama,” he continued.
Victolero rattled off Marc Pingris, Mark Barroca, and Rafi Reavis as his players with the experience in this type of situation.
“I know marami kaming players … they're experienced players and veterans, but as a group, as a team, yun ang tinatrabaho namin ngayon, yung maturity namin as a team (kulang pa),” Victolero said. “So lahat naman dumadaan sa process na yun.”
“Hindi namin pwedeng shortcut-in,” he added. “Siguro may mga ganoon na nangyayari sa mga ibang teams na nasa Finals agad in the first conference na lahat bago yung system, bago yung players. But yun nga, hindi namin nagawa.”
Still, it was a remarkable achievement for Victolero in his first conference at the helm as the 41-year-old mentor steered the Hotshots to their first semifinal appearance since the 2015 Governors’ Cup, their last conference under Tim Cone.
The Hotshots also showed marked improvement coming off a 2016 Governors’ Cup where they finished second to last with nine losses in their 11 games.
“Malaki din yung experience ko. Against Coach Tim, madami akong natutunan sa kanya,” Victolero said. "Madami rin akong (natutunan)... kumbaga paano mag-adjust. Yung aking best na naibigay sa series na ito, naibigay ko. I think yung best ko is not enough para manalo at madala ko yung team ko sa finals.
“I think I will work harder, I will study hard pa,” he added. “Yun ang commitment ko sa team, na madala ko sila sa dapat naming puntahan.”