MERALCO Bolts coach Ryan Gregorio believes he now has the arsenal to turn back Tim Cone and the San Mig Coffee Mixers.
Since his historic 4-0 sweep of Cone and the Alaska Aces in the 2010 Philippine Cup, Gregorio has been ousted twice by his American arch-rival and his former team in the playoffs after his transfer to Meralco a few years ago.
Cone's San Mig thwarted Meralco twice in the quarterfinals, first in the 2010 Philippine cup, 2-0, and again in the 2012 Commissioner’s Cup, 2-1.
“But now I believe it’s going to be different, because it’s best-of-five and we have a complete arsenal now,” Gregorio said.
“We’re confident that now being more mature together in the league, we’re ready to seize every opportunity,” he added. “We’re pretty much up there, but it’s not enough…. work is still much to be rendered!”
A couple of big trades has turned the Bolts into a title contender in the PBA Governors Cup, with new boys like Mike Cortez and Jared Dillinger plugging holes in a team that already boasts the likes of Macmac Cardona, Reynel Hugnatan, Sunday Salvacion, Rey Guevarra, and import Mario West.
“Not a lot of people probably realize this that part of my decision-making process was to put in players with championship experience, because they’ve been there, done that, and they know what it takes for us to go to the next level,” added Gregorio, who is also a Meralco assistant vice president and head of its sports and youth advocacy.
Gregorio said San Mig will be a big stumbling block in their bid to finally win their franchise’s first ever crown, but the former UP Maroon guard declared their readiness to take on the challenge.
“We are ready… at this point I think San Mig’s edge is experience, but our edge is hunger. They have a purpose, we have ours. And we will give them a good fight,” he said.
“By stages ang approach namin, we’ve cleared Stage One, that is to end up in the top four, we cleared Stage Two by winning against Barako. Now this is Stage Three,” Gregorio described their campaign.
“We’re not looking at any other direction. We have a clear written goal on where we want to go. We want to clear this big hurdle in San Mig to keep cilimbing up the ladder, and ultimately reach the mountaintop,” he added.
But Gregorio believes reaching his goal this conference will not be easy, as his former players James Yap, Peter June Simon and Marc Pingris are capable of taking over in important games.
“I am wary of the playoffs mentality of the three, I know them so well. They have the ability to switch it on especially when the game is on the line,” he said.
“I am cautious and conscious of their contributions offensively...” Gregorio added. “But we have planned out a detailed coverage just to limit them!”