“It will always be weird playing against my guys at TNT,” Alapag told BuhayBasket. “We’ve been through so many wars together, won so many championships, the bond we have will last a lifetime. I can’t express how much love and respect I have for all of them, which made our semis win against them a little bittersweet.”
After playing 12 seasons with a perennial contender, moving to Meralco presented a new challenge for Alapag. He had to take a group of young guns and teach them what it takes to win.
“Since we do have so many young players on the team, I’ve just tried my best to get everyone to understand the level of focus and effort it takes at practice on a daily basis,” he said. “By pushing each other every day, we not only improved as a team, but we’re preparing ourselves for the playoff battles ahead.”
And that preparation has paid off. After toiling at the bottom of the standings, Meralco is finally making their first appearance in the PBA Finals.
“It’s a great feeling to be back in the finals,” Alapag admitted. “Coming out of retirement to join Meralco, it’s what I always envisioned for the team. But when you go 1-10 in the All-Filipino, you almost feel like you’ll never get there. But credit to coach Norman, the staff, and our guys for getting back in the gym and really refocusing and dedicating ourselves to getting better.”
Waiting for them in the finals is the most popular franchise in the league. Alapag knows this and is up for the challenge.
“We have another huge challenge ahead of us playing Ginebra in the finals. They’ve been playing well the entire conference. They have some great players over there, a hall of fame coach, and, of course, the crowd. We’ll have to be at our best, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”