DESPITE Tim Cone clearly establishing Star as the favorite in its PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series against Barangay Ginebra, counterpart Chito Victolero believes otherwise.
The Star mentor points out to the Kings’ championship experience as a major factor going to the race-to-four showdown.
“Ginebra is a champion team, and they now have the chemistry and experience that is very hard to beat,” said Victolero, who was with deputy Jason Webb at the upper section of the Smart Araneta Coliseum to watch the do-or-die encounter between the Kings and Alaska on Tuesday night.
Behind the game-high 31 points of LA Tenorio, the Kings repeated over the Aces, 108-97, to bag the last semifinal berth and book a best-of-seven showdown with their long-time rival.
In his post-game interview, Cone was quick to admit the Hotshots are favored in the series.
“Obviously, it’s Purefoods,” he said. “We’ve won five out of our last six, so we’re not playing too badly. And we’ve overcome some injuries along the way.
“But c’mon Purefoods has not won by less than 30 points like in the last five or six games. And they’re really coming on.”
The Hotshots made the semis for the first time after four conferences. They completed a two-game sweep of the Phoenix Fuel Masters in the quarterfinals, winning the best-of-three series by an average of 26 points per game.
Victolero however, is in no mood to celebrate yet, especially with Ginebra standing in the Hotshots’ way.
In particular, the Star coach mentioned the Kings’ role players such as Aljon Mariano, rookie Kevin Ferrer, and Dave Marcelo as among those who stepped up in the game against the Aces.
“Everybody played well tonight especially their role players,” he said. “So we expect a very hard and exciting series.”
At the same time, Victolero said he expects the Hotshots to be up to the challenge.
“No one expect us to be here, but the team worked hard for this so we will battle and fight to meet our next goal,” he said.