After a long, grueling season, Petron is planning to take things slow.
Blaze Spikers’ coach Shaq Delos Santos said they would do some soul-searching and enjoy the holiday season before waging war anew in the Philippine Superliga (PSL) Grand Prix that starts on Feb. 17.
The past year had been a roller-coaster ride for the Blaze Spikers.
After failing to win the crown in the Invitational Conference, the Blaze Spikers launched a massive comeback and dominated the All-Filipino Conference, thanks to their impressive recruitment program that led to the acquisition of stars like Mika Reyes, Sisi Rondina and Rhea Dimaculangan and return of Remy Palma and Bernadeth Pons.
But in the Grand Prix, the Blaze Spikers suffered some turbulence.
After racing to a 7-1 win-loss mark in the eliminations, the Blaze Spikers slowed down when Generika-Ayala gave them a scare in the quarterfinals.
Fortunately, order was restored when they dominated reigning champion Foton in the semifinals to book a best-of-three finals showdown with F2 Logistics.
Then, the grand collapse happened.
Petron hammered a convincing victory in Game 1 and looked good to clinch the title in Game 2 after erecting a 2-1 set lead and a 9-0 edge in the fourth set.
Then, disaster struck.
With the Blaze Spikers taking their sweet time, the Cargo Movers slowly chewed the lead and eked out a victory in the fourth set to equalize the match.
It was all F2 Logistics from there as the vaunted defense, offensive attack and poise of Petron started to conked out, setting the stage for a crucial, kill-or-be killed Game 3 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
In Game 3, the tired and bruised Blaze Spikers simply ran out of gas.
That’s shy Delos Santos is looking to give his team a refreshing break, something that will empower them as they embark into another title quest in two month’s time.
“Right now, I think it’s time for us to take a break. We want to rest because it had been a very long series for us.”
“We really need to recover not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.”
Among all teams, Petron has the most handsome chance of ruling the import-flavored conference.
In fact, the nucleus of national team members Frances Molina, Aiza Maizo-Pontillas, Dimaculangan and Reyes will be back for another tour of duty as well as Remy Palma and Marivic Meneses, who opted not to use his final playing year in the UAAP.
Even import Lindsay Stalzer revealed that the Petron management already expressed its interest to have her back with San Miguel Corporation sports director Alfrancis Chua being overheard saying: See you next year, Lindsay during the opening ceremonies of the 43rd season of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) over the weekend.
With that, only role players Rondina and Pons will be sitting out as they join University of Santo Tomas and Far Eastern University, respectively.
But Delos Santos said nothing is cast in stone.
“We will have a meeting to discuss what we have to do for 2018.”
“But so far, we don’t have any schedule. We just want to rest and recover.”
Delos Santos emphasized that they will surely put up a fighting team for next year.
But for now, all they want is to slow things down and take it easy.