Entering the semifinals for the first time since coach Tim Cone’s departure, Star is looking like a contender once again after last season’s disastrous run.
And Marc Pingris knows where to attribute the Hotshots’ turnaround.
“Kaya kami nandito ngayon sa semis dahil sa defense namin. Ganoon kami ka-confident na bumabalik yung dating team namin dahil sa defense,” he said.
The Hotshots swept Phoenix in their best-of-3 quarterfinals tiff with another dominant 91-71 victory on Monday.
Pingris was instrumental in the victory, finishing with 16 points, nine rebounds, and three assists, but more than his statline, it’s really the squad’s defensive effort which allowed them to punch a ticket to the Final Four.
He couldn’t also help but note a lot of similarities with the way Star is playing now to that of their championship days under Cone, praising coach Chito Victolero for the system he put in place this conference.
“Si coach Chito at coach Tim, defensive coaches sila at iisa ang style nila. Sinasabi sa amin ni coach Chito na kung gusto namin na makuha yung panalo, kailangan naming dumepensa. Yun din ang sinasabi ni coach Tim, na kung gusto namin makapunta ng Finals, kailangan naming dumepensa,” he said.
The players are more than happy to oblige and the results speak for themselves as the Hotshots booked a semifinals spot for the first time since the 2015 Governors’ Cup.
“Syempre happy kami na nakabalik kami sa semis,” Pingris said. “Deserve naman namin yun kasi pinaghirapan talaga namin. Gutom talaga kami makapasok sa semis.”
However, Star’s defensive anchor said that the team shouldn’t be content with its achievement and should instead eye to build on the team’s six-game winning run. The Hotshots have been dominating during their streak, beating their opponents with a winning average of 27.8 points.
“Happy kami pero konti pa. Mas masaya pag Finals,” he said. “Siguro meron pa kaming dapat ayusin dahil ang dami pa naming kailangang i-adjust. May mga rookie na ngayon lang namin nakasama. Kung willing kami nag-level up, kailangan namin sundin si coach.”
Pingris shared that Star also isn’t worried about which its semifinals opponent whether it’s Ginebra or Alaska
“Sila ang mamimili kung sino ang gustong pumasok. Mahirap mamili kasi pagdating pala, tatalunin ka,” he said. “Ang iniisip namin yung defense talaga namin.”