THE moment Ginebra resident star Mark Caguioa stepped on to the court against Barako Bull Friday night, he already knew the Kings are bound for a long night in their PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup encounter.
And the reason? The Energy have at least six players who once donned the Ginebra uniform.
True enough, the Kings had some anxious moments in the homestretch especially when the Energy cut a 14-point third quarter deficit to just 72-73 behind the hot hands of ex-Ginebra stalwarts Willie Miller, Rico Maierhofer, and Keith Jensen.
Good thing though, Ginebra managed to hang on and eventually, turned back Barako’s gritty stand for an 85-79 win.
Caguioa admitted feeling a bit nervous when Barako Bull came charging back, especially with his former teammates leading the huge Barako Bull run late in the game.
“I was telling Jayjay (Helterbrand) nga na huwag mag-relax eh. Eh ganun nga ang nangyari sa fourth quarter,” said Caguioa, who only played eight minutes as he is still recovering from the flu.
The former league MVP said Barako Bull, despite absorbing a fourth straight loss after a 2-0 start to the season, carries with it the Ginebra “never-say-die” spirit owing to the presence of several former Kings.
“Playing against this (Barako Bull) team, I know what they could do dahil lahat sila nagdaan sa amin eh. Siyempre, tinalo nila `yung Alaska di ba?” he added.
Maierhofer, playing his first game this season for the Energy, said it felt strange suddenly going up against the Kings.
“Siyempre, mahirap makalaban sila (Gin Kings) kasi first of all, former family mo sila,” said the 6-foot-4 former La Salle forward.
“Tapos, ngayon kalaban mo. Parang ang hirap i-describe, kasi dati sila kasama mo, tapos ngayon opponent mo na sila. Kaya tuwing sumisigaw ang crowd ng Gineba, tumataas ang balahibo ko.”
Maierhofer, along with Willy Wilson, was actually packaged by Ginebra during the offseason in exchange for Barako Bull’s fourth pick in the last draft, which turned out to be Fil-Canadian guard James Forrester.
The 28-year-old Maierhofer said being in the league for the last four seasons, he has learned to accept the fact that getting traded is part of the pro league’s business.
“Part of our job description iyan (trade). Pero ngayon, this (Barako Bull) is my family,” he said.
Other former Ginebra players now in a Barako Bull uniform are Robert Labagala and JC Intal.