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PBA: Abanilla positive despite defeat

Marc Pingirs and Elijah Millsap

by Waylon Galvez

Manila, Philippines – Petron Blaze rookie mentor Gee Abanilla sees something positive from their Game 7 defeat to San Mig Coffee in the PBA Governors’ Cup.

Abanilla said they can use their defeat as motivation as they move on for next season’s campaign, beginning with the Philippine Cup.

“I was disappointed not because we lost,” said Abanilla after the Blazers dropped an 87-77 loss to San Mig Coffee Friday.

“I knew that the players gave everything they got, and they really wanted to win this game. It’s very unfortunate that we fell short. But it’s a crash course for us, we’re grateful about it.”

Abanilla replaced Olsen Racela before the start of the season-ending conference. With a star-studded lineup reinforced by Elijah Millsap, younger brother of Utah Jazz forward Paul Millsap, the Blazers faced high expectations.

After losing their first game in the eliminations, the Boosters won eight straight for a league-best 8-1 record going to the playoffs.

As the No. 1 team, Petron Blaze knocked out No. 8 Barangay Ginebra in the quarterfinals, and then dethroned Rain or Shine in four games of their best-of-five semifinal series.

In the Finals, the Boosters jumped to a 2-1 lead, but found themselves in a 3-2 hole after dropping Games 4 (88-86) and 5 (114-103). They won Game 6 (99-88) to force the sudden-death, but had no gas left in the tank in Game 7.

Abanilla remains positive.

“Looking ahead, this is just a baby step for us for something… I hope something greater. We’re just building an identity that we want in the future. Ultimately we want to be in a level that we can say we got the identity we want,” he said.

“Although we fell short… I think there’s a bright future ahead of us if we can just focus and build on things that we want to.”

Arwind Santos and Junmar Fajardo echoed Abanilla’s optimism.

“Dito masusubukan yung faith namin e, tiwala sa isa’t isa, tiwala sa Diyos. Hindi kailaangan mawala. Kailangan matuto kami, kailangan din hindi kami masyado magpa-apekto. Yung confidence namin hindi rin dapat na bumaba,” said Santos.

“Masakit dahil natalo, pero walang magawa e. May manalo, may matalo. Bawi kami next season,” Fajardo said.

Millsap said he would love to come back here and play for the Boosters.

“I had fun. It was a great experience for me. I learned a lot from these guys… love playing with these guys. I appreciate the fans support to the team. I enjoyed it here,” Millsap said.