Down 0-2, Helterbrand says Ginebra has no plans of giving up
MANILA, Philippines – Jayjay Helterbrand is cut from a different kind of cloth – one that does not make him consider giving up.
Helterbrand, Barangay Ginebra's 40-year-old veteran guard playing on a one-year contract, said his team has no plans of yielding just yet in the face of a 0-2 deficit in the best-of-7 2017 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals against rivals Star Hotshots.
"We always do it the hard way. We’ve been doing it the hard way the whole conference," Helterbrand, who had two points in under 4 minutes of play, told reporters on Saturday, February 11 after a 91-89 loss to Star
"It’s not over. We’re down two games but it takes 4 to win. We’re not gonna give up, just keep trying."
The Gin Kings have dropped back-to-back close games and are now in a must-win situation heading into Game 3, lest they want to go down 0-3.
They've been grinding it out since Game 1, trying to stop Star's winning surge that has now stretched to 8 games dating back to the eliminations.
Ginebra, however, was not too far behind Star in both games as they've lost only by a combined 5 points. Helterbrand believes breaks of the game could have gone either way.
"It’s been a close game. It’s not like they’ve been dominating the series. We could have won Game 1 or Game 2," he explained, still looking confident and calm emerging from the locker room.
"It just turns out, a couple of rebounds away, a couple of missed layups away from winning. It’s not over. Just gotta keep our heads up, keep trying. That’s all."
It hasn't been easy for both sides so far in the series, with Ginebra as the top defensive team in the league taking on the second best defensive squad in Star. The Hotshots, though, also have the added advantage of being the best offensive team.
"Honestly, I think we match up really well with them. They’re not doing anything special that any other teams have done against us. We’re just a rebound away, a shot away from winning," Helterbrand said.
"The guys are quick defensively, maybe that’s giving us a little trouble, that pressure. But nothing major. Nothing that we can’t adjust to. It takes 4 games to win. We still got a chance."
Guard Sol Mercado, who had just 6 points on 3-of-6 shooting in almost 22 minutes Saturday, noted Star's ability to throw off Ginebra's offensive schemes.
"You gotta give them credit. They’re really disrupting our offense with their pressure on LA all the way up to the court. They’re doing a lot of stuff to disrupt us so we have to make some adjustments to be able to handle that."
It was the Hotshots' advantage in the post that made the biggest difference, says Mercado.
"It’s really their post, to be honest with you. They get a lot of scoring opportunities from throwing it in the post. We have to help and then we’re chasing the ball. And they’re able to break us down from us chasing the ball," he explained.
Ginebra has missed its 7-foot center Greg Slaughter all conference long with a knee injury. For a time Japeth Aguilar sat out but now they're sorely in need of the services of Joe Devance, who injured his foot in the quarterfinals and has not seen action since.
"There’s not a word we can put on his importance. He’s our glue guy. Everybody knows that about Joe. He’s someone that does stuff that doesn’t show up on the stats sheet," Mercado said of Devance, who normed 12.5 points and 6.4 rebounds in the eliminations.
"He sets great screens, he gets us into our offense, he gets the high-low passes to Japeth. Defensively, he’s our anchor. A lot of people don’t know that, but he’s always talking. So we’re missing him big time."
Like Helterbrand and Mercado, several Ginebra fans are also confident their team can catch up in the series.
Bernard Navarra, a 40-year-old Special Action Force trooper, watched the game with his family on Saturday and were seen eagerly waiting outside the locker room to take pictures with the Gin Kings.
Taking a leave from work, he flew in from Jolo, Sulu, where he is currently assigned, just to catch Ginebra play in the semifinals. He said he and his family are expecting the series to go to Game 7.
"Aabutin 'yan ng Game 7 basta ma-activate lang si Joe Devance. Kasi close fight naman e," Navarra, who has been serving for 15 years, told Rappler.
"Considering na yung 11-point-something na average ni Devance, malaking tulong ‘yun. Tapos ‘yung factor na depensa niya, mas sharp sa Star Hotshots."
(It will go to a Game 7 as long as they activate Joe Devance. It's a close fight after all. Considering his 11-point-something average, Devance will be a big help. He is also a factor on defense, he's sharp against the Star Hotshots.)
Navarra, who watched with his brother, his son, and his nephew, has been a Ginebra fan since the Robert Jaworski era. And he, too, does not want to count out his team yet.
"Kayang kaya (It can be done). Never Say Die," he said confidently.
Meanwhile, Helterbrand and Mercado are expecting Ginebra to come out with a stronger sense of urgency heading into Monday's Game 3.
"There’s gotta be. You’re down two games, you should have had that sense of urgency since Game 1. That’s just the mentality that you gotta have," said Helterbrand.
"This is the playoffs. You can’t go out there relaxed thinking there’s a Game 3 or Game 4 or whatever. Every game is a do-or-die game. That’s the kind of mentality you gotta have. Hopefully the next couple of games we can show that."
"When you’re down 0-2, you can’t get go down 0-3, so it’s definitely a must-win next game. But we’re still confident. We haven’t played our best game and we’re still just one possession, stop away from winning the game," added Mercado.
"It really doesn’t come down to Xs and Os anymore. It’s just a matter of who wants it more. We have to want it more next game. We have to get all the 50-50 balls, we have to play our best game." – Rappler.com