MANILA, Philippines – Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone knows the Meralco Bolts are more fired up than ever for their upcoming finals series in the PBA Governors' Cup, with Norman Black's squad eyeing not just the championship.
Cone knows that the Bolts are also looking for redemption, after losing in heartbreaking fashion to the Gin Kings in the 2016 and 2017 finals of the Governors' Cup.
In 2016, Justin Brownlee nailed the game-winning three-pointer in Game 6 that ended Ginebra's long championship drought, and in 2017, the Gin Kings outlasted Meralco in seven hard-fought games to repeat as champions.
"We do recognize that we have lost to Ginebra twice, we've been reminded of that over and over again. But hopefully it will be a different result this time around," Black said at the press conference at Sambo Kojin in Libis on Saturday.
Cone noted that Black and his team are "all business" heading into the seven-game series.
"No fooling around, no nothing, we're out here to win, we're out here to do our thing, and he (Black) made it very loud and clear in his tone and the way he was speaking," said Cone. "And that's the way he should be, that's what I know of Norman. He's that kind of guy. He's used to winning, and he doesn't like to lose."
The Bolts' motivation and hunger will certainly give them an edge in the series, said Cone, and the Gin Kings will have to find a way to match that.
"That's certainly something we're very anxious about. We know that's a problem," said the Ginebra coach. "That's something we're gonna have to figure out as a coaching staff."
But if Meralco has an edge, then so does Ginebra.
Cone has made no secret that the Gin Kings regularly lean on their fans for motivation, and the "barangay" will once again be on their minds and hearts when they play the Bolts in the finals once more.
"We have legions of fans here in Ginebra, and we know that they're behind us, we know that they want us to win. I think that's great motivating factor for us," said Cone.
"Everywhere you go along the streets, there's always Ginebra fans coming up and keeping you focused and reminding of the importance of this series, and how important it is to them that we win," he added.
"Our fans, that's our edge," Cone stressed. "That's what we're gonna have to use in the finals to overcome their edge that we've beaten them twice already."
Having the largest fan base in the league also comes with a unique kind of pressure, but Cone is confident that his players have learned how to deal with it and know how to respond to it.
"I think these guys have learned to embrace it and take it forward, and again, if we have an edge, it's gonna be our fans," he said.
Game 1 of the best-of-7 series is on Tuesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
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