‘Wear them proud’
At the end of their “most challenging conference,” the Petron Blaze Spikers raised a trophy and donned their medals. But unlike the previous two seasons, they were of a different size and a different color.
Shaq delos Santos, Petron’s coach who steered the franchise to eight straight conference finals appearances starting in 2016, was telling the whole team “to wear them proud.”
They should, as the fallen champs worked extra for that bronze, coming from behind to frustrate the Foton Tornadoes, 28-26, 25-27, 25-21, 24-26, 15-12, Saturday night in the Philippine Superliga All-Filipino Conference at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With six championships and an A-list roster, Petron has defined the term “super-team” in the league, something the franchise carried with pride over the past few seasons.
But losing to Cignal HD in the semifinals will leave a scar that the Blaze Spikers hope to wear like a badge of honor.
“It was unexpected. But I guess we learned to always be ready for all possibilities,” said Delos Santos in Filipino. “And now I feel that team is more solid. It’s important that we remain a solid team, especially when we lose.
Delos Santos said losing to the HD Spikers—despite a twice-to-beat armor—came as a “big shock” for them.
But after the defeat last Thursday, the mentor who is known for his extraordinary cool demeanor, told his team at the locker room: “We should leave this room with heads held high.”
Sisi Rondina scored four of the Blaze Spikers’ last five points as they raced from 9-11 down in the fifth set to nail the victory at the packed Big Dome.
The flashy spiker from University of Santo Tomas said she has come to terms with losing the semifinals to Cignal HD, saying the third-place finish should help the team move on.
“I have poured all my heart aches to (Bernadeth) Pons. I have accepted it. It happened for a reason,” said Rondina, who finished with 33 points.
Ces Molina added 15 points, while Mika Reyes and Aiza Pontillas added 11 each.
“I told Pons let’s win this one, because this is our last game,” said Rondina. “After this we get to do it again next conference.”