Meralco forward Jared Dillinger was bold and frank when asked which team he would like to face in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
“I hope we play Ginebra,” Dillinger said shortly after the Bolts swept the Star Hotshots in their best-of-five semifnal series Thursday with a 91-88 overtime victory at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts are playing the waiting game as Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and TNT KaTropa are locked in a tight battle for the other finals berth. Their semis series is tied at 1-1 heading into Game 3 which is being played at press time.
Dillinger’s wish to face Ginebra for a shot at avenging last year’s finals defeat in the same conference wasn’t a surprise, so did the uproar of Gin Kings fans shortly after Dillinger’s comment came out on social media.
But Dillinger wouldn’t care less.
In fact, he has embraced the heel role since June when Meralco was denied of a semifinal faceoff with Ginebra with a loss to TNT in the quarterfinals of the Commissioner’s Cup.
“That one was tough. Hats off to TNT for sticking it out. Beat Ginebra. I can’t stand those guys,” Dillinger tweeted shortly after that quarterfinal defeat, causing Ginebra’s Joe Devance, Sol Mercado and Greg Slaughter to respond.
Whether it was in jest or not, Dillinger became Public Enemy No. 1.
More than embracing the hate, it’s the chance at redemption that motivates Dillinger.
A torn hamstring forced him to miss last year’s Governors’ Cup, watching helplessly as the Bolts lost in six games to Ginebra on a buzzer-beating three by Justin Brownlee.
“They beat us last year and I didn’t get a chance out there and help the team,” he said. “Now this year, I’m healthy and we wouldn’t want it any other way but to play with those guys, get a chance to get some revenge against them.”
While Dillinger was daring enough to pick an opponent, his teammates preferred to play safe, knowing that either Ginebra or TNT can give the Bolts a run for their money.
“It could be nice to have a rematch, but TNT’s a great team, Ginebra’s a great team, we gotta see how that series finish out. But we’re going to prepare for both of them,” said import Allen Durham, perhaps the most motivated of the bunch after witnessing Brownlee’s fire the game-winner inches apart.
“Everybody since day one, since I came in, at the beginning of the conference, we all have one goal in mind. And now we gotta finish it. We’re one step closer,” he added.