Games Friday
(MOA Arena)
4:30 p.m. — Rain or Shine vs San Miguel Beer (Game 1 Semis)
7:30 p.m. — Meralco vs Ginebra (Game 1 Semis)

MOMENTS after Rain or Shine (ROS) followed defending champion San Miguel Beer (SMB) to the PBA Philippine Cup semis, coach Yeng Guiao immediately turned on the mental game.

“I think the series is for them to lose,” Mr. Guiao said as he noted the Beermen’s big advantage in firepower, playoff experience and resources against his youth-laden crew entering the race-to-four semis opener Friday at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena. “This seven-game series is going to be our best learning experience, we have nothing to lose, we will gain experience in this series.”

It’s Mr. Guiao’s way of taking the pressure off his young guns while shifting it heavily to their mighty opponents as they fire the first salvo in the 4:30 p.m. tiff preceding Game 1 of the other series between old rivals Ginebra and Meralco at 7:30 p.m.

Of course, this doesn’t mean ROS will give it to SMB that easily.

“We will play as hard as we can,” Mr. Guiao vowed.

Against SMB’s battle-tested aces June Mar Fajardo, CJ Perez, Terrence Romeo, Jericho Cruz and Don Trollano, it will surely be a true test of toughness and character for gritty ROS led by veterans Beau Belga and Gabe Norwood and youthful Andrei Caracut, Gian Mamuyac, Santi Santillan, Adrian Nocum and Jhonard Clarito.

The No. 1 and twice-to-beat Beermen took a longer route to the Final Four after being dragged to a sudden death by No. 8 Terrafirma in the first match, 106-95. But they got the job done just the same with a 110-91 clincher Wednesday and stayed on track for not only back-to-back All Filipino crowns but also a sweep of two-conference Season 48.

“We’re back to zero. Elims is done, quarterfinals is done,” Jorge Gallent said in illustrating SMB’s mindset.

San Miguel was tested by the Dyip, whose three-point-shooting frontliners gave Mr. Fajardo and Co. a difficult time.

“It’s a very good grind for us. Rain or Shine has the same style (as Terrafirma). They have bigs that can shoot the three so that series really helped us (for ROS), said Mr. Gallent.

Meanwhile, the Gin Kings and the Bolts brace for a dogfight in their eighth playoffs matchup in the last eight seasons.

“We know what we’re up against. It will be hard all the way but we’re looking forward (to this matchup),” said Meralco mentor Luigi Trillo, expecting the likes of Chris Newsome, Cliff Hodge, Allein Maliksi, Raymond Almazan and Chris Banchero to lead the charge versus Ginebra’s Christian Standhardinger, Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar and Maverick Ahanmisi. — Olmin Leyba