MERALCO coach Ryan Gregorio hopes his team’s hunger will be enough to trump Rain or Shine’s experience when they face off one last time on Saturday for a spot in the semifinals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Game Three of the best-of-three quarterfinals series tips off at 2:45 p.m., with the Bolts hoping to finally get over the hump after always falling short in previous playoffs appearances.
But they face a perennial title contender in the Elasto Painters, who forged the winner-take-all match after a hard-earned 102-93 win in a highly physical game last Wednesday.
“When we talk about experience as a franchise they have the experience,” Gregorio admitted. “But in terms of hunger, it points to us having an advantage on that.”
“But we have to throw these out of the window,” he added. “We just have to live in the present and stay in the moment.”
The first two games of the series have been filled with action and drama on and off the court, especially in Game Two, which saw Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao calling Meralco forward Cliff Hodge a ‘mongoloid’ at endgame after the Fil-Am player punched Elasto Painters rookie Raymond Almazan in the face in the dying seconds.
Guiao’s slur cost him P100,000, while Hodge has been slapped with a P20,000 fine for his closed-fist hit that led to a foul, which was upgraded to Flagrant 2, the league announced on Friday.
Guiao could not be reached for comment as of posting time.
Gregorio hopes the deciding Game Three will be played without unnecessary actions.
“I hope it’s still gonna be won by basketball intelligence."
Yet, Hodge expects a physical encounter against the Painters.
“I think in the first half, there will be a lot of calls to make sure the game’s within the boundary of physicality,” said Hodge. “But I think it will be down to the wire. Whoever wants it more, whoever plays smarter, is going to win.”