Veteran spitfire Mark Caguioa has been longing for the real Ginebra atmosphere to come back in their games.
Big and loud crowd. Thundering chants of Gi-Ne-Bra! Gi-Ne-Bra!
“With me, there’s something missing. Ang tagal na eh. 2008. Ang tagal ko ng hindi nakikita yung pure Ginebra atmosphere,” said the 36-year old Caguioa.
“Last time I saw that atmosphere, it was Christmas. Pagkatapos nun, nawala ulit yung mga tao. It’s not just 1 game, you gotta keep doing it,” he added.
Last Christmas, before a huge crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena and a quarterfinals berth on the line, the Kings put up a performance to remember.
Flashing their signature never-say-die spirit by battling back from 18 points down against their rivals, Ginebra beat Star Hotshots on an overtime buzzer-beater by LA Tenorio.
“Para sa akin, mapasaya namin ang mga fans, okay na kami eh. Lalo na ‘yung mga die-hards na talagang pinag-iipunan nila ang pambili ng ticket. We put a smile on their faces if we play with the never-say-die spirit of old. ‘Yung maski matalo kami pero lumalaban, hindi ‘yung natatambakan,” Caguiao said.
On Sunday, Caguioa will experience that Ginebra atmosphere again. And he hopes that they are up to the challenge.
Both teams are riding high on their 1st victories in the conference after similar slow starts.
The Hotshots finally rediscovered their winning form by routing Blackwater, 122-103, last Wednesday to get a confidence boost heading into their Manila Clasico game on Sunday.
The Kings, too, rode on Othyus Jeffers, who had 38 points and 20 rebounds, to outlast Rain or Shine, 103-92 last Sunday.
“He (Jeffers) showed that he could play even if he’s hurting, he kept playing. Iyun ang isa sa mga characteristics ng never-say-die. With him playing like that, it lifts the spirits of the players,” Caguioa said.
And it’s all Caguioa had to see to know they are up for something big this conference.
“It’s a 1st win. We needed that win. The way we won was very nice because we led and we sustained it. I think our defense was pretty good,” he added.
Caguioa, whose prime years are starting to leave him behind, longs for the Manila Clasico atmosphere every game.
But with Cone around and an import who is embracing their never-say-die attitude, Caguioa believes it’s just a matter of time before the fans will come in droves again and the goose-bumping “Gi-Ne-Bra!” chant to rock their games. — By AA