DESPITE Petron’s nine-game win streak that included a huge win over Rain or Shine in the eliminations, Boosters coach Gee Abanilla believes they have their work cut out for them as they take on the Elasto-Painters in the PBA Governors Cup semifinals starting on Monday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
After losing their conference opener to the Meralco Bolts, the Boosters have piled up nine straight wins including a 99-84 win over the defending champion Elasto Painters.
But Abanilla says the best-of-five semifinal series against Rain or Shine, a squad with vast playoff experience, will be a serious test to their maturity, chemistry and desire to win the championship.
“Now that we’re part of the semis, we’re aiming for something higher. We’ll try to make the best out of it (series). And our focus is to improve ourselves individually and as a team,” Abanilla said, whose team booked a semis seat following a 101-94 quarterfinal victory over sister team Barangay Ginebra.
Also an interesting subplot is the battle of student and mentor — Abanilla served as assistant coach to Guiao for a few years at Red Bull.
The soft-spoken Abanilla says he has high respect for Guiao, noting that the fiery mentor has the ability to draw the best from his players.
“I’ve learned a lot from coach Yeng,” said the freshman Boosters mentor, who is out to end Petron’s two-year PBA title drought.
“I know for a fact that his leadership skills are very high. I admire that from him. So going up against this guy in the semis is such a challenge because you don’t know what to expect,” he added.
Rain or Shine is entering the series as the underdog as Guiao won’t have last year’s Rookie of the Year Paul Lee, ruled out of the season due to a calf muscle tear early this week.
Guiao will have to dig deep to find ways to come up with the numbers Lee usually makes. The former UE player averaged 11.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists during the single-round eliminations.
But big man Beau Belga said Rain or Shine will be able to mix it up with the bigger and talented-laden Petron squad, even without Lee.
“Sanay naman kami na kulang. Nung nag-champion kami last year, wala rin naman si Paul Lee. Siyempre, gusto namin na dehado kami,” said Belga, who served as an alternate player for the Gilas Pilipinas team in last month’s Fiba-Asia men’s championships.