NEWLY-MINTED champion Barangay Ginebra raised a glass to the 54,589 faithful who put the wind in their hardcourt heroes’ sails in the fight for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup crown.
“Every person in that coliseum was important to this win and we can’t thank them enough for showing up,” multi-titled coach Tim Cone said after the Gin Kings finished off tough Bay Area, 114-99, to the delight of the record crowd at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Mr. Cone, now a 25-time PBA champion, can’t overstate the value of Ginebra’s “Sixth Man” as they tackled the Dragons in a grueling war of attrition, most especially in the high-pressure decider.
“The energy from the crowd boosted us to levels I didn’t think we could get to against this team,” said Mr. Cone.
Riding such high energy, the crowd darlings turned what was anticipated as a tight rubbermatch into a runaway romp.
“We were totally surprised at how well we played and that we’re able to handle Bay Area. And the only explanation we can really give is that the crowd lifted us to that kind of performance,” he said.
“You know when you have that massive crowd behind you, you play better than you are. And we played better than we are (in Game 7).”
Ginebra Governor Al Chua said Bay Area was not ready for Ginebra’s vaunted weapon.
Mr. Cone said it is the team’s responsibility to reciprocate the rallying cries of the Ginebra diehards and make them reap the fruit of their effort.
“Everyday we come out here, we think about the fans. (Ginebra legend) Mark Caguioa taught us how to do that, how to understand how important we are and what our mission is,” said Mr. Cone. “Mark always talked about that — it’s always doing this for the fans. And 54,000 tonight, wow, that makes it so special.”
It was a sort of deja vu for the crowd darlings, who dealt with a similar situation before in the 2017 Governors’ Cup. The first time, they got the job done against Meralco in front of a then record 54,086 fans in the cavernous Bulacan arena, 101-96.
“I feel fortunate to be part of it, fortunate to win both games,” said Mr. Cone. — Olmin Leyba