MANILA, Philippines - "Of course it's a morale-booster but we're not satisfied."
That's how San Miguel Beermen team captain Chris Ross described their 112-107 win over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Wednesday, March 19.
The win meant the Beermen were somehow able to get back at the Painters for booting them out of the semifinals, 4-1, during the previous Philippine Cup.
"It's good for us mentally because that team (Rain or Shine) embarrassed us last semifinals," explained Ross. However he cautioned that while the team should take stock of the victory and the confidence they gained from it, they must not get carried away.
"As a group, it's big but we know what our team goal is and that's to win the last game of this conference."
But Ross, 29, maintained that they treated Rain or Shine just like any other opponent.
"We take every game the same no matter the opponent. I know that the guys who were here last conference really wanted to get this win. We want to continue to get better and get back to work for Barako Bull on Saturday."
Understandably, the Beermen are more aware and cautious in that they know a 3-1 standing is no guarantee for anything. In fact, not even an 8-0 conference start or a third seed assured them of a Finals stint.
Just last conference the Beermen (then Petron Blaze Boosters) zoomed to an 8-0 Philippine Cup start. They finished third in the standings before eventually falling to the Elasto Painters in the semifinals where they lost miserably in a short 5-game series.
This Commissioner's Cup, the Beermen are experiencing a somewhat shaky start. But that may well be the solid foundation on which they will build a new winning era for the storied team.
"Being 3-1, it's a good feeling. But we know it's only the beginning," Ross said.
The 6-foot-2 point guard is providing steady guidance for his team as they look to carry on the winning tradition of the Beermen name.
For this game, Ross had a career high 22 points, 5 rebounds, 10 assists and 5 steals to lead his team to victory. He was a prime example on defense with active hands and sticking to his man all the way, resulting to several breakaway lay-ups.
"The coaches want everybody to play their game and be aggressive. And I was pretty aggressive today," Ross explained. "Got it going early and I started to feel good. It's all about confidence and putting in the work."
The work started for Ross with practice shooting together with former Smart Gilas cager and one of the sweetest shooters in the league, Marcio Lassiter.
"I shoot with Marcio every day after practice. He's one of the better shooters in the league and the country. I get tips from him as far as not thinking about it and just catching it and shooting it."
He also said the confidence of being on a passing team also continues to help improve his game daily.
"The coaches tell us if we're open shoot it with confidence. So I think that's what a lot of the guys are doing. They get space and we're pretty unselfish as a team, so we know we're gonna share the ball and we know we're gonna get open looks so we just gotta catch and shoot with confidence."
Ross' performance was also a welcome development for the team as he stepped up in the absence of Sol Mercado, who sat out due to a strained groin he sustained during their match against Talk 'N Text.
"He (Mercado) just said to have a big game today. He knew that I knew he wasn't going to be able to play," Ross shared. "So that's a big part of our offense, Sol getting in the paint and getting others involved and also scoring, especially defensively. So I just knew I had to step up."
San Miguel will play Barako Bull next on Saturday, as they hope to improve their 3-1 record. - Rappler.com