Birthday-boy Mike DiGregorio relishes opportunity to play against idol Terrence Romeo
Mike DiGregorio finished with 19 points against GlobalPort. Dante Peralta

GOING up against his favorite player was enough motivation. What more if it was his birthday?

Mike DiGregorio relished the opportunity to play against Terrence Romeo, putting up a breakout performance, although, in a losing effort as Mahinrda surrendered to GlobalPort, 118-116, in overtime on Saturday in the PBA Philippine Cup.

Playing in only his third game since getting activated from the reserve list, the Enforcers rookie guard registered 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting, five boards, four assists, and one block in 34 minutes on the same day he turned 25.

“I really wanted to do well on my birthday,” DiGregorio admitted. “I knew coach was going to give me opportunity with LA (Revilla) being hurt. I've worked so hard for this for so long.”

[See Terrence Romeo rescues GlobalPort in overtime thriller]

But more than celebrating his birthday, the Filipino-Italian cager was eager to stand toe to toe against Romeo.

“Terrence is my idol. I look up to him a lot and he's my favorite player in the PBA,” he admitted. “To go up against him, I wanted to show up well. I wanted to go at him just like he's going at me and I think I did a pretty good job.”

He was so pumped up in one instance that he taunted Romeo after the Mahindra guard converted a step-through basket late in overtime.

Romeo, though, had the final say in the match-up, hitting the game's final five points to steal the win for GlobalPort.

“It's nothing against him,” DiGregorio said. “It's just heat of the moment and the competitiveness. I look up to him, so to play well against him, he's such a good player and I just wanted to show well and go at him.”

Despite his team coming up short, DiGregorio, this year’s 36th overall pick, still ranks this as a memorable birthday.

“This is pretty a special birthday,” he said. “I obviously wanted to win but to play well and play well against him over there (Terrence) it means a lot to me for sure.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos