SMB 'X factor' Chris Ross says offseason work paying off as fatigue sets in in playoffs
Chris Ross was hands down the best player for SMB in Game One. Jaime Campos

WITH the way Chris Ross performed in Game One of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals, it's almost hard to believe he just came off a grueling seven-game semifinal series where he logged early close to 40 minutes a game.

If he's tired, he's definitely not showing it as he put up 17 points, eight assists and five rebounds in the Beermen's 109-82 rout of Ginebra to draw first blood in the best-of-seven finals.

Ross played with an extra bounce in his step as he ran circles around the Ginebra defense and, for good measure, hounded Ginebra guards Sol Mercado and LA Tenorio, never allowing the usually reliable duo to get into any form or rhythm.

The two combined for just seven points in Game One, just three days after scoring a total of 43 points - or nearly half of Ginebra's 89 points - in the Game Seven victory over the Star Hotshots.

For Ross, the impressive performance was just validation that all the preparation that the Beermen did for the season is now paying off.

"We've logged a lot of minutes, and they've logged a lot of minutes. There's no such thing as fatigue in the Finals," Ross said.

"We really just gotta dig down deep and hope your offseason work comes to fruition in the Finals. That's why you work hard in the offseason. When you're playing for something so big like now, your conditioning comes out," he added. 

[See SMB delivers strong opening statement in PBA Finals]

The rout came like a breath of fresh air for Ross, who was relieved to see Leo Austria's overworked starters each play no more than 30 minutes on Friday night.

Forward Arwind Santos played the most after logging 29 mins and 52 seconds. Three-time MVP June Mar Fajardo got his well deserved break after logging in just nearly 24 minutes as he watched the final minutes from the bench.

"That's huge for us man because on Tuesday we all played over 40 mins except for JMF. It's huge for us -the starters - to get some rest and for our bench to get some confidence," Ross said as he saw guys like Brian Heruela and Ronald Tubid give the backcourt quality minutes off the bench.

"Our bench guys came in and played well ... Brian Heruela and (tubid) did an amazing job. Gabby (Espinas) played well, Keith (Agovida) played well so those guys coming off the bench was the key for us," Ross continued.


"We know we're not going to win the championship with just five (players). We need everybody on the roster on their game. And when their number is called, they need to contribute."

[See Flu-hit Fajardo delivers the numbers - and still gets much-needed rest]

But just like his head coach, Ross is eager to move forward from this victory.

Winning big and taking the fight from Ginebra early may be good, but Ross knows that if there's any team which can bounce back from a humiliating defeat - it's Ginebra.

The Beermen themselves have first-hand experience of that after they won Game Four of the Governor's Cup semifinals handily, only to be blown out by Ginebra in the next game.

"I told the guys last time in Game Four of the semifinals last year, we beat those guys by thirty plus and then Game Five they came out and beat us by 30 points," Ross said, insisting he's going to continue to push his teammates in Lucena.

"It's a short turnaround on Sunday but we'll be ready, coach will get us ready, I'll get the guys ready."

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