PBA Finals: Rivalry or not, war looms in Ginebra-Meralco championship showdown

Published January 4, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Jonas Terrado

Meralco coach Norman Black, left, and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel's Tim Cone shake hands in front of PBA commissioner Willie Marcial during Saturday's PBA pre-Finals press conference at Sambokojin restaurant in Libis, Quezon City. (Alvin Kasiban)
Meralco coach Norman Black, left, and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s Tim Cone shake hands in front of PBA commissioner Willie Marcial during Saturday’s PBA pre-Finals press conference at Sambokojin restaurant in Libis, Quezon City. (Alvin Kasiban)

 

As much as they are hungry to finally beat Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals, the Meralco Bolts still don’t see the matchup as a rivalry.

“Normally a rivalry means both teams are winning and they’ve won both championship series,” Bolts coach Norman Black said during Saturday’s press conference at Sambokojin restaurant in Eastwood Libis.

“So, in that sense, it’s not so much a rivalry.”

The Bolts are facing Ginebra for the third time for the biggest prize of the season-ending conference.

While their two previous meetings have drawn the interest of fans, Black isn’t going to say that it is already a legitimate rivalry.

“There’s still a lot of interest,” he said. “I think we set a record for most people to attend a PBA game the last time we play them in a championship series, so a lot of people do come and watch when we play Ginebra.

“But I think we have to beat them a few more times before you can actually call it a rivalry.”

Meralco has fallen in the two previous title showdowns with Ginebra, the first in heartbreaking fashion in 2016 with Justin Brownlee sealing it with a buzzer-beating three off Allen Durham.

The Bolts were able to push the 2017 meeting to a deciding seventh game in front of 54,086 fans at the Philippine Arena. But Ginebra, with eventual series Most Valuable Player LA Tenorio leading the way, emerged victorious anew 101-95.

But even the two disappointments couldn’t make Durham feel carried away at agreeing to such notion.

“I mean, we got to win. We got to win,” said Durham. “We can’t get caught up with the rivalry or what we gonna call it, this and that. I mean, bottom line is they beat us twice. They beat us twice. So now, we gotta get back in there and try to get a win. So, that’s what we’re really focused on.”

Ginebra coach Tim Cone, on the other hand, said he’ll leave it up to observers to see if there’s such a case.

“I just think that we’ve been at each other’s throats for a while, but that usually turns into a rivalry,” Cone said. “But I think that’s defined more by the press and by the fans. They are the ones who decide whether this is a rivalry or not.

“Of course, we’re gonna be rivals no matter what because we’re both pursuing the same thing. Even if this is the first series we’re playing in, we will be rivals.

“But if it turns into a rivalry, I think that’s really dictated by the fans’ interest and how the press picks it up.”

Cone would later kind of contradict Black on what fuels both of them.

“For me personally, it’s certain,” said Cone. “Norman and I are friends, but I always felt that we’ve been big rivals. Even if we don’t play each other every time, we’re still rivals.

“And we both like to win and both our teams like to win, and that usually means that there’s a rivalry going on.”

It will be the fifth Finals meeting between the two American coaches, with Cone having won all four previous duels.

 
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