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After first All-Star appearance, Tiongson eyes playoffs stint

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After first All-Star appearance, Tiongson eyes playoffs stint

Terrafirma guard Juami Tiongson.–PBA IMAGES

Juami Tiongson was worried that the two-week break brought by the All-Star festivities and the Holy Week would stifle Terrafirma in its bid to get a streak going in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup.

The Dyip’s clash with Meralco in the curtain-raiser at Smart Araneta Coliseum will provide Tiongson and the rest of the club an answer, but coach Johnedel Cardel is liking his crew’s chances in the contest that gets going at 4:30 p.m.

“The confidence is there,” the Terrafirma coach told the Inquirer over the phone on the eve of the match, which could give the perennial whipping boys a 4-2 mark and a much-needed lift in their quest to make the playoffs.

“We’re coming off a win, so the positivity has been around throughout the break,” he added, referring to a high-wire 92-91 escape from Blackwater before the league’s two-week breather last month.

Aside from the optimism he noticed in practice, Cardel is pinning his outlook on Tiongson’s milestone experience in the midseason extravaganza.

“That’s going to be a big confidence booster for him. There are about 24 who get to be selected,” he said of Tiongson, who finally notched his first All-Star selection after falling short last year. “He deserves it all. He’s always been a hard worker, early to practice—and as I’ve said before, even beats me to it.”

Tiongson could very well be an even better player once he plunges back into action this Wednesday having rubbed elbows with a champion and battle-tested playmaker.

“It was great and memorable,” he told the Inquirer in a separate interview. “It was fun being able to chat with Mark Barroca and pick his brain a little bit. Overall, an extraordinary experience. Hoping I get a chance to do it again.”

Holt, Go also vital

Cardel knows the folly of pinning all his hopes on only Tiongson, so he counts on top rookie pick Stephen Holt and the now-fit Isaac Go to help his cornerstone in willing the Dyip past the seasoned Bolts.

“You know, the good thing about Juami is he is the kind who shares,” he said. “He knows that he can’t do all the winning by himself. He’s been fitting well with Holt and Isaac, and even Kemark Cariño.”

“My teammates and I are excited. Everyone was competitive and focused in practice, a lot of them didn’t even go on a break. Our determination and hunger to make the playoffs are there. Hoping we start the second half of the conference strong,” said Tiongson.

Meanwhile, Rain or Shine takes on winless Converge in the night, also looking to annex a second victory in the nightcap.The Painters, who dropped their first four outings, will now go through a relatively lighter schedule that is free of traditional powerhouses. INQ

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