Barangay Ginebra San Miguel governor Alfrancis Chua said that he was expecting a long finals series in the PBA Philippine Cup had it not for the injuries that plagued the TNT Tropang Giga.
Chua shared his thoughts a day after the Kings snapped a long 13-year championship drought in the all-Filipino conference, beating TNT in five games with an 82-78 victory in Game 5 last Wednesday in a ‘bubble’ at the AUF gym in Clark, Pampanga.
“Kung andoon siguro yung dalawa hahaba pa ang series, talagang balikatan yan. Hindi lang siguro natapos in Game 5, baka Game 7 pa tapos it’s anybody’s game,” said Chua in a phone interview with Manila Bulletin.
“Parehas kasing star-studded ang dalawang teams, parehas may experience. So malamang na umabot siguro sa Game 7.”
Chua is referring to the absence of TNT injured star players in Jayson Castro and Bobby Ray Parks. Castro hurt his knee while driving to the basket in the second half of Game 4, while Parks aggravated a calf injury late in Game 1 that sidelined him in Games 2 to 5.
Ginebra took the first two games of the series before TNT came through with a masterful 88-67 victory in Game 3. The team of coach Tim Cone capitalized on these injuries by winning the next two matches.
Regardless of how the championships series ended, Chua – also the sports director of the San Miguel Corporation – said it was not a walk in the park campaign for the popular squad Ginebra.
“Dumaan ang team sa butas ng karayom talaga kasi sa start pa lang ng PBA restart may mga injured players kami… si LA (Tenorio) galing sa operation yan, pero pinilit niya makasama sa pag-start and naka-adjust naman siya while inside the bubble,” said Chua.
Tenorio went on to win the PBA press Corps Finals MVP to compliment his first Philippine Cup title on his 14th PBA Season.
Chua also pointed to the injuries prior to the restart of other veteran players in Japeth Aguilar and Joe Devance, which gave playing time and confidence to others like rookie Arvon Tolentino and backup center Prince Caperal.
According to Chua, as the conference went on, including the playoff stage, things started to fall to its places for Ginebra.
“Na-swertehan kami kasi healthy, may mga injuries pero mga naka-recover. Also, na-maximize talaga ni coach Tim Cone kung anong talent meron ang team. Kita mo pati sina Caperal at Tolentino nakapag-contribute,” said Chua.
“In the finals, yung nakalaban namin parang pa-upos na sila beceuse of injuries… kami pa-peak naman. Saka advantage na din na may Tim Cone ka na coach na alam ang gagawin sa dulo.”
Chua said it was a solid and well prepared TNT, which had a two-week head start training in a bubble in Laguna prior to the PBA Commissioner’s Office approval to resume training for the 12 teams.
He considers TNT team “Gilas” squad playing in the PBA, pointing to the number of players that donned the national team colors.
“Sa totoo lang ang expectations naman ng tao is ang TNT papasok sa championship… yung coach nila si Mark Dickel talagang maaga pa lang kinundisyon na yung players nila,” he said.
“Gilas yung team na yun e.”
As the smoke cleared after more two months in the bubble, Chua said this title of Ginebra has a different feel considering the league and the teams had to go through for the restart to happen.
This one, for Chua, is something “special”.
“Una kasi nga ang tagal na, 13 years bago nakuha ang Ginebra ng all-Filipino championship. Second, yun ngang first bubble ng PBA… hindi natin alam kung may bubble ba sa susunod na season,” said Chua.
“Habang buhay na maalala ng players ito, ng fans, history na ‘to kasi PBA bubble. Nakakatuwa kasi alam natin ang hirap ng mga players na mapalayo sa pamilya, pero ito ang kapalit – champion sa Philippine Cup.”
As for the reward the team would get from SMC chief Ramon S. Ang, Chua said it’s all up to their boss.
“Tignan natin kung anong sasabihin ni boss. Basta gusto sila Makita ni boss, ako naman din excited na sila Makita kasi TV lang talaga kami nanonood. Meron kaming lunch with boss RSA… tignan natin,” Chua said.