A little over three months ago, the Alaska Aces’ Calvin Abueva and Globalport Batang Pier’s Terrence Romeo donned the national colors for Gilas Pilipinas 3.0. Together, they provided hustle and energy off the bench and made highlight after highlight against much taller opponents with more international experience. They quickly became known as Gilas 3.0’s dynamic duo – an ideal moniker for two of the fastest rising stars in Philippine basketball.
With each game they played, their status as teammates was elevated to that of of brothers working together to achieve a common goal – win the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship and bring glory to the country.
“When we were in Gilas, our impact to each other was huge,” said Abueva. “It brought out our confidence which helped us play the way we did.”
Today, both of them find themselves on opposing teams as Abueva and the Aces face off against Romeo’s Batang Pier at the Semi Finals of the 2016 Philippine Cup. Regardless of their origins and with the series tied at 1 game a piece, they are ready to give their all on the hardcourt with a finals berth at stake.
“I know that they need to win as much as we do,” said Romeo on competing against Abueva and the Aces. “It will be a battle on the basketball court. I know we’ll both do our best to lead our teams to victory.”
It was a match between two teams with contrasting styles: The Aces and their solid team defense, and the Batang Pier’s relentless offense. The Batang Pier squad have enjoyed a series of breakthroughs as they found success in their high-octane offense led by their backcourt duo Romeo and Standley Pringle. As a team, they are among the league leaders in offensive categories. However, what stands before them is a team that have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with on the opposite end of the floor. True to their team mentality of “We Not Me,” the Alaska Aces have made use of their greatest strength – teamwork – to be one of the league’s top defensive teams.
Despite emerging as the underdogs for their series against the Aces, the hungry Batang Pier squad are brimming with confidence after a morale-boosting upset of the crowd-favorite Barangay Ginebra Kings at the quarter finals. As their young franchise faced the the perennial championship contenders and one of the most storied franchises in Philippine basketball history, the Batang Pier carried their winning momentum to stun the Aces and captured game 1.
“Game one is ours, but this is a long series,” said Batang Pier Head Coach Pido Jarencio. “I guess we need to be consistent.”
Once the ball was tipped off to start Game 2, both squads went neck-and-neck for most of the night before the Aces pulled away for a 100-76 finish to even the series. After Romeo had a career-night that saw him torch the Aces defense with 41 points in game 1, the Aces’ defense did well to limit him to 2 points for the entire second half. Overall, the Aces looked more in sync and had more spring in their steps for Game 2.
“It was really evident that we’re faster this time around,” said Aces Head Coach Alex Compton. “We’re really slow in Game One, and that’s not to take away Globalport dominating us then.”
As the sword clashes with the shield, the different playing styles of both squads, including the much-anticipated matchup between the two Gilas standouts Abueva and Romeo, are sure to add to the action and drama of the series. With the series back to square one, with the score tied at 1-1, both squads will try to solve the puzzle to each other and look to gain an edge with a win on Game 3. Will it be the hot-shooting Batang Pier or the seasoned “Never Quit” squad Alaska Aces coming out on top? Definitely, both will be ready to play, with their hearts on fire.