BOCAUE – Given the proximity of the Philippine Arena to NLEX and coach Yeng Guiao’s hometown of Magalang, Pampanga, some would think that this venue could be very close to the Road Warriors' hearts.
But for the fiery head coach, that distinction still belongs to a certain popular team in the PBA.
“Hindi naman. Homecourt ng Ginebra to. So ayokong panghimasukan 'yung di naman sa atin,” said Guiao with a smile after the Road Warriors' 115-104 victory over the GlobalPort Batang Pier last Monday in the Iglesia Ni Cristo-owned arena.
“Paglabas mo sa NLEX na syempre, masasabi nating homecourt natin, pero yung Philippine Arena, parang Ginebra pa rin. Kaya lang yung laro di naman sa kalye ginagawa, dito sa loob yung game,” he added.
Given how Ginebra holds the attendance record in this cavernous venue after nearly 55,000 fans watched Game 7 of the Governor’s Cup Finals against Meralco last November, Guiao knows better than to throw the word ‘homecourt’ rather carelessly.
“Convenient lang (para sa akin), maganda ang dadaanan mo, mabilis ang byahe, pero pagdating mo sa loob, fans pa rin ng Ginebra ang nandoon,” Guiao said.
Guiao shared that this is the first time he entered the venue, which has an access road from NLEX, since it opened back in 2014.
That’s why he made it a point for his players to arrive early just for them to get a feel of the court. Save for Alex Mallari, no one among his players have experienced playing in the venue.
“Sobrang laki, kaya hindi naman kami nakapag-ensayo dito. Sabi ko sa mga players, first game naman tayo, agahan nyo ng husto and try to soak in the atmosphere and familiarize yourselves with the environment as much as possible,” Guiao continued.
The unfamiliarity didn’t seem to bother them at all as they maintained their scoring pace from last game, dropping 115 points. But Guiao attributed that more to the pace of the game.
“Mataas naman talaga yung scoring. Last game 119 points kami. Mataas ang scoring pero mataas din ang scoring ng kalaban because of the pace of the game. I dont think it reflects on the defense,” said Guiao.
“Nagre-reflect yan sa bilis ng laro, maiikli ang possessions, and there will be more attempts, the score will be higher. Ganun lang yun. We base our defensive effort on the percentages, on the total FG percentages. 41.5 yung kalaban, so not really bad defense, but it’s a high-scoring game.”