MAGNOLIA Ang Pambansang Manok does not know for sure what Meralco would do in Game 5 of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals duel Wednesday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Hotshots star guard Mark Barroca has a clear idea, readily arrived at when he put himself on the Bolts' shoes. "Based on my experience, mahirap mag-close ng series, sobrang mahirap," he said.
"So kung ano 'yung effort na ibinigay namin (in Game 4) kailangan pa naming i-triple para makuha. Kasi hindi ibibigay iyan eh. Kung kami nasa sit'wasyon nila, back-to-the-wall, iyun talaga gagawin namin," added the six-time champion cager.
Barroca spoke after Magnolia carved out an 81-69 victory in Game 4 last Sunday that gave it a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and three chances -- starting 3 p.m. on Wednesday -- of returning to the conference finals for the third time in the last four seasons.
The odds and history seem to favor Magnolia since, according to PBA chief statistician Fidel Mangonon III, 52 out of the total 56 teams which have taken such a lead in a race-to-four have went on to win the duel, including 27 of the last 28. What's more, 27 of those teams sealed the deal in Game 5.
Barroca knows what he and his team must do to be readily included in that winners' circle. "Kami, lampasan talaga namin 'yung effort nila, kung anuman iyon," he said.
"Kasi nga, Meralco is more on effort sila, eh. So tatapatan namin, hindi lang tatapatan i-triple pa kasi mahirap talagang mag-close ng series."
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero couldn't agree more. "Tama si Mark. It's hard to close a series kasi nga the effort and aggressiveness nu'ng kabilang team medyo tataas talaga iyon," he said.
Victolero has ample reason to be wary since Meralco has already shown its resilience by jacking up its own energy and intensity to notch a 91-86 in Game 3 and avoid falling into a very deep 0-3 hole.
"But we've learned from that and I think we'll just try to stay focused, recharge, refresh," averred Victolero.
"We have to expect more effort from Meralco also. We need to do multiple effort again. Stay aggressive," added Victolero. "We have to stay focused pa rin."
In order to at least stay alive and ease some of its manpower problems, Meralco is expected to suit up Raymond Almazan. The long-limbed center missed the last two games due to a sprained ankle he suffered in Game 2.
What is not yet known as of posting time is whether Trevis Jackson and Jammer Jamito would also be cleared to play for Meralco after both had to go through the league's health and safety protocols. (NC)