TO this day, Jayjay Helterbrand is still at a loss on why Barangay Ginebra always loves to play its best when backed against the wall.
And with the Kings now on the brink of elimination in the PBA Philippine Cup semis, the 40-year-old veteran could only keep his fingers crossed the Kings will be able to rise again to the challenge.
If not, the Kings may find themselves packing their bags on the way back to the imaginary ‘Boracay Cup.’
“It’s a must-win for us the next game or else it’s Boracay time,” said Helterbrand, flashing a sheepish smile as he made a reference to a vacation destination that has become associated with teams being bundled out of contention in the pro league.
The league’s most popular ballclub again dug itself a hole after losing Game Five of the best-of-seven series against Star Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena, 89-80.
The Kings now trail the Hotshots, 2-3, and need to sweep the last two games for a chance to make it to the finals for the second straight conference.
Game Six is set on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Helterbrand said Ginebra seemed to have become accustomed to completing a task the hard way, just like they did in advancing to the semis when they beat second-seeded Alaska twice-in-a-row.
“For some reason we like it like this. I don’t know why?” he said as if begging for answers. “It’s just the way yung team naming ganun ang gusto namin. We played better when our backs are against the wall. Parang gusto namin nahihirapan kami.
“I think we played better that way. Honestly, we really do.”
Helterbrand and the Kings’ vast reserves tried to do it that way in Game Five as they rallied from a 17-point deficit early in the fourth to threaten at 87-80 entering the homestretch.
The one-time league MVP led the comeback, firing all of his six points during that stretch. Unfortunately, the rally fell short.
“I just tried to gamble, hoping my shots will go in. A couple of shots here and there and we’re right back in the game,” he stressed. “But it came up short.”
Helterbrand hopes the team could have done everything the easy way. But now that they’re faced with a do-or-die situation, the Kings just have to face it like real warriors.
“It’s the card that we’re dealt so we’ll just play it the best way we can,” said Helterbrand, his red cap blaring the numbers 1979 and the words ‘NEVER SAY DIE’ in bold letters.