IT was a loss Purefoods suffered during the last PBA Philippine Cup, but something that kept lingering on the mind of coach Tim Cone.
The American coach still vividly remembers the Hotshots’ 100-96 overtime loss to Talk ‘N Text during the season-opening conference, pointing to it as the defeat which relegated the team to a twice-to-beat disadvantage in the playoffs.
“They (Tropang Texters) basically knocked us out the last conference,” Cone recalled.
“I know Meralco knocked us out in terms of the quarterfinals, but we got knocked out earlier when they beat us and made us stay at seventh or eighth spot, where we have to get the twice-to-beat disadvantage to us,” he added.
“We look at that as the one that knocked us out.”
Meralco executed the death blow to Purefoods’ back-to-back Philippine Cup title bid after scoring a decisive 77-65 victory in the quarterfinals.
On Saturday, the defending champions get a crack of getting even against the Tropang Texters when the powerhouse squads collide in the Commissioner’s Cup Petron Saturday Special at the USEP gym in Davao City.
The highly-anticipated matchup kicks off at 5 p.m. with the Tropang Texters looking to regain
the solo lead against the dangerous Hotshots (5-3) and further boost their bid for a top two finish and a twice-to-bead advantage in the playoffs.
The Tropang Texters are currently tied on top with sister team Meralco Bolts with similar 6-2 records.
Top guard Jayson Castro considers the Hotshots as the team’s acid test owing to team chemistry and familiarity of the reigning champions with returning import Denzel Bowles.
“Knowing Purefoods, yung team nila, may chemistry na. Saka big test na makalaban sila at galing pa sa break kaya si Bowles, nakapag-rest na at nakuha na niya rhyhm niya sa practice,” said Castro, Talk ‘N Text’s top local scorer with an average of 18.3 points per game this conference.
Import Ivan Johnson, who came in to replace reigning Best Import Richard Howell, will lead the Tropang Texters’ bid against the Hotshots.
The former Atlanta Hawks forward averages 29.3 points, 14.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists since replacing Howell last month.
Bowles meanwhile is also churning out impressive numbers of 33.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.5 blocks in his first two games so far since replacing Daniel Orton.
Cone admitted Talk ‘N Text has always been a matchup nightmare for his team owing to the Tropang Texters’ armada of shooters, led by stretch four Ranidel de Ocampo.
“Talk ‘N Text is such a difficult matchup because of all their shooters, while Ranidel is a matchup hell so they always give us fits,” noted Cone.
But the chance for a payback is something the Purefoods coach hopes would motivate the Hotshots against their fancied foes.
“It’s kinda same time in the conference where we lost to them in overtime the last time, but hopefully, we can win this time,” said Cone.
“I know the guys are keyed up for this game.”