COACH Ryan Gregorio is determined to impart his “bounce-back” mentality on the Meralco Bolts, who are shooting for no less than a victory against Petron Boosters in the penultimate playdate of the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup eliminations on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts (5-8) are coming off a painful 86-89 loss to Rain or Shine following the huge three-pointer of big man JR Quinahan at the buzzer.
The setback derailed Meralco’s entry into the quarterfinals.
An interesting sub-plot in the 3:30 p.m. encounter is the first-ever match-up between Meralco’s new acquisition Danny Ildefonso and his former understudy at Petron, June Mar Fajardo.
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo has made giant strides beginning in last season’s Governors Cup, where he played a key role in the Boosters’ runner-up finish behind eventual champion San Mig Coffee Mixer.
For Gregorio, facing Fajardo and the Boosters remain a big cause for concern although the Bolts remain focused on the big task at hand.
“We are staying on course. Our losses, stinging as it may be, we cannot be discouraged,” said the Meralco coach. “We know the significance of the game. A victory will earn us a slot in the quarters. We are determined to get that done to avoid complications.”
Gregorio said Petron may be assured of a quarterfinal slot, but the Boosters for sure would want to end their elimination round campaign with a bang.
“Petron is not an easy team (to beat) especially coming off a humbling defeat against San Mig. We must not only equal their bounce back genes but we need to surpass it to have a chance against them,” noted the 41-year-old Meralco coach.
On the other hand, Petron counterpart Gee Abanilla said Fajardo is still about 85 percent in game shape when they play the Bolts, a team they beat, 77-73 during their first meeting in Dipolog City last December.
“Sabi niya (Fajardo) 75 percent na siya, pero the way he practiced today (Thursday), I think he’s maybe 85 percent,” noted Abanilla after the team’s practice at the Reyes gym.
“Of course, I don’t want to put pressure on the big boy, but he really moves very well now. He’s confident to play his normal game again and, in the coming games he’s gonna get better.”