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MANILA, Philippines – As fate would have it, James Yap's first semifinals as a member of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters will be against PBA crowd darling Barangay Ginebra.
And sure enough, the two-time league Most Valuable Player is more than motivated not just to defeat the Gin Kings, but to also silence their legion of fans.
"Nasabi ko na ata 'to before, masarap talunin 'yung Ginebra dahil maraming magagalit sayo," Yap told reporters with a laugh after Rain or Shine booked its semis ticket with a 103-97 win over the GlobalPort Batang Pier on Thursday, July 12.
(I probably said this before but it feels great to beat Ginebra because you will anger a lot of people.)
"Ako naman 'pag ganyan kasi, ang motivation mo, syempre kilala natin Ginebra, kalaban mo dyan anim, kasama ang fans."
(We all know Ginebra. When you face them, you are against 6, including the fans. That is my motivation.)
Yap was a big factor in securing the Elasto Painters a Final 4 slot – the team's first time in two years – as he delivered his best game yet in a Rain or Shine uniform with 27 points off 7 triples in their do-or-die contest against the Batang Pier.
While he has proven that he can still shoot the lights out at 36 years old, Yap knows it will be a tall order facing the Gin Kings, who are considered the hottest team in the league right now as they ride on a blistering 7-game winning streak.
"Mataas 'yung kumpiyansa nila, kasi kapag na-reach mo 'yung ganoon e, kahit tatlo lang nga e o apat, sobrang taas na ng kumpiyansa," Yap said of Ginebra's hot streak.
(Their confidence is at a sky-high because even if you just win 3 or 4 straight games, your confidence will skyrocket.)
"Ready kami, hindi kami magre-relax sa kanila dahil kakainin kami ng buo noon kapag nag-relax kami kasi 7 straight wins. Lahat sila, kumpiyansa yan kasi nakapitong straight na e so kailangang ready talaga."
(We will be ready. We will not be relaxed because we will be eaten alive if we relax against a team that has 7 straight wins. All of them are confident right now so we need to be ready.)
It will be a familiar matchup for Yap against Ginebra, well, at least on the coaching side.
The Negrense hotshot will be facing former mentor Tim Cone – with whom Yap had won 5 PBA championships with – in a semifinals series for the first time.
"Kilalang kilala ko si coach Tim, pagdating ng playoffs magaling 'yan. Magaling mag-adjust, so kailangan maging ready kami. Excited ako," Yap said.
(I know coach Tim very well, when it comes to the playoffs, he is on another level. He is great at adjusting so we need to be ready. I'm excited.)
The best-of-5 semifinals duel between Rain or Shine and Ginebra will begin at the Araneta Coliseum on Sunday, July 15. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.