WHETHER Barangay Ginebra can indeed contend for back-to-back championships or not is set to be known as it collides with PBA Philippine Cup pacesetter San Miguel Beer on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Gin Kings ended 2016 on a strong note with a victory over rival Star on Christmas Day that moved them back to .500 with a 3-3 win-loss record.
But the reigning Governors’ Cup champions immediately start the New Year with a crucial match-up against another sister team in the two-time defending all-Filipino conference titlists Beermen.
“This is a gauge sa amin kung ano made-determine nitong team namin,” Gin Kings star LA Tenorio admitted in a chat with SPIN.ph after practice on the eve of the 6:45 p.m. clash. “This will determine the conference for us.”
“Dalawa lang yan eh: it’s either going to start our big push this second half of the conference or it will really pull us down,” he added. “Malaking confidence booster beating San Miguel.”
“You have no choice, makikita mo rin sila pagdating ng semis or even finals, so wala kang magagawa,” he continued. “If we really want to be on top this conference, we have to beat a team like San Miguel.”
The Gin Kings had SMB’s number in the Governors’ Cup, outlasting them in a semifinal series that went the five-game limit on the way to ending an eight-year title drought.
But they had do-it-all import Justin Brownlee then.
“Ngayong all Filipino, it’s going to be a big challenge for us especially now that Justin’s no longer here,” Tenorio admitted.
“Pero I think yung mga nagawa naman ni Justin last time is because of the team, not only because of him,” he was quick to add. “It’s really team effort – if you’ll really watch the video, so we just have to put extra effort to beat powerhouse San Miguel without Justin, kasi same team pa rin sila with or without an import.”
Worse, Tenorio knows the Beermen are out for payback.
“Even though they’re on top of the standings, may utang kami sa kanila eh,” the Governors’ Cup Finals MVP said. “Mayroon silang double motivation kasi we knocked them out last conference, so we have to be more ready.”