STAR seeks to barge into its first finals appearance in four seasons as it battles Barangay Ginebra in an expected all-out war in Game Six of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series on Sunday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Standing in the Hotshots’ way is a Gin Kings side handled by the coach who last brought them to a title series – in the 2014 Governors’ Cup, their last conference under Tim Cone and completed their Grand Slam run.
And Marc Pingris is well aware Cone and the Gin Kings are not just going to hand the victory to the Hotshots on a silver platter.
“Ito yung pinakamahirap,” the Hotshots star admitted after their 89-80 victory in Game Five that moved them on the cusp of a finals berth on Friday night. “Alam ko hindi basta-bastang sumusuko yung Ginebra. Kaya nga tinawag na ‘never say die’ ang Ginebra eh.”
Now handled by Chito Victolero, the Hotshots brace for a nip-and-tuck encounter against the league’s most popular team that’s expected to be buoyed by its legion of fans.
“Sabi nga ni coach, i-expect niyo yung war. War talaga yan,” Pingris said. “Hindi naman suntukan; I mean, talagang piso-piso. Yung A-game nila ilalabas nila.”
“Yung A-game namin ilalabas din namin, so kami,” he was quick to add. “Basta doblehin lang namin yung depensa namin at focus sa game…kasi wala kang magagawa eh, talagang yung fans nila, sobrang pag sumigaw, rinig kahit hanggang sa labas, kahit hanggang Cubao maririnig eh.”
The Hotshots’ familiarity with Cone helps, but it’s also the same the other way around.
“Importante din yun (familiarity namin sa kanya),” Pingris said. “Naii-scout niya yung laro namin, naii-scout rin namin yung laro niya, so parang alam namin yung ugali sa isa’t-isa. Alam namin kung ano yung gagawin niya."
“Pero alam niya rin kung ano yung gagawin namin dahil kilala niya kami, so parang patas lang naman,” he added.