NOW that they are back in the finals, Rain or Shine players led by Beau Belga did not hide their desire to again face off with Purefoods Star for all the marbles.
Purefoods Star is still locked in a 1-1 deadlock with arch-rival Talk 'N Text in a fiercely fought PBA Commissioner's Cup semifinal series, but Belga and Co. hope the Hotshots make it all the way to the finals again.
Belga and teammates Ryan Arana, TY Tang, Jeric Teng and Wayne Chism prefer Purefoods over Talk 'N Text, saying they are already quite familiar with the Hotshots who they've faced three times before in the finals.
Rain or Shine beat Purefoods (then B-Meg Llamados) for its only league championship in the 2012 Governors’ Cup. But the Hotshots won their next two finals face-off in the 2014 Philippine Cup and Governors’ Cup on the way to completing a grand slam.
On the other hand, Rain or Shine has never been successful in a playoff series against Talk n Text, which swept the Elasto Painters both in the 2013 Philippine Cup Finals and in the semifinals of the 2014 Commissioner’s Cup.
“Kontrapelo namin talaga ang Talk 'N Text, hindi ko alam bakit hirap kami lagi dun,” said Arana.
See video of interview with Rain or Shine players:
But in a random dugout interview conducted by Spin.ph on Tuesday night shortly after Rain or Shine completed a semifinal sweep of Meralco, most of the Elasto Painters expressed a desire to avenge their two finals losses to the Tim Cone-steered Purefoods squad.
“Sa totoo lang mas gusto ko (kalaban sa finals) ang Purefoods. Hindi naman sa match kami, siguro alam na rin namin sila laruin. Madalas namin sila makalaban eh,” said Belga.
“Tatlong beses na namin sila nakalaban sa finals, isang beses namin sila tinalo, dalawang beses nila kami tinalo, so baka makaganti kami. Hindi pa kami nananalo sa series sa Talk 'N Text eh,” added the 285-pound pride of Gubat, Sorsogon.
Teng, on the other hand, wants to face Purefoods because it has a big fan base that will guarantee sellouts in all the Finals games. A poll commissioned by the league has shown that Purefoods is the second most popular team in the league behind Ginebra while Rain or Shine stands at No. 3.
“Gusto ko Purefoods, masarap kalaban 'yun. Maraming fans, saka para si Beau ma hype up ulit,” said Teng with a smile.
Another Rain or Shine mainstay, Tang, said: “Kahit sino, mahirap mamili. Pero sa akin siguro, Purefoods na lang sana. Kasi sa dami ng nilaro namin sa kanila sa finals, makabawi man lang kami.”
Chism said Purefoods is one of the most competitive teams in the league today.
“I like to play Purefoods, I want to go against them. Big team, they come with a lot of pressure, I like them,” said Chism.
Rain or Shine stars Gabe Norwood and Chris Tiu believe they will have a fight in their hands regardless who they meet in the best-of-seven championship series.
“It doesn’t matter who comes out (from that series), we’ll have momentum either way. We just have to be ready for either team. (They say Talk n Text is tough for us), so it’s a good challenge for us, but we lost to Purefoods the last time we played them in the finals too, so either way we’d have revenge,” said Norwood.
Tiu said: “Mahirap pumili, parehong magaling, parehong malakas, parehong beterano, well coached pareho.”
Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao couldn't care less which between Purefoods and Talk 'N Text comes out of the other semifinal pairing, saying his only hope is to see their series go the distance.
“Wala akong ano dun, basta sa akin sana magtagal ng five games,” said Guiao. “Basta importante sa akin manalo kami ulit ng isa pang championship.”