By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Every night of the Monster Energy Team Challenge, presented by U.S. Border Patrol, Team Pendleton Whisky captain Marco Eguchi will look over his team’s draw for the upcoming day and research the matchups.
Eguchi then will meet with his teammates, especially Lucas Divino and Amadeu Campos, and offer some insight as to what each bull may be capable of doing.
While part of the conversation is about bull tendencies, in many ways it’s more about building team chemistry and empowering his teammates with the confidence that they can ride anything that is inside the bucking chutes waiting for them.
“This competition is about having a lot of heart,” Eguchi told PBR.com late Saturday night via phone. “Since this competition began, I have talked a lot with my team. Every night before and after the show. When we know the bulls for the next day, we will talk about them and which way they will go. I also try to give them confidence and make them trust in me, and I will trust in them.”
Eguchi has been the best example of riding with heart throughout the Monster Energy Team Challenge. The 2018 World Finals event winner has a partially torn left groin, but that has not stopped him from pushing Team Pendleton Whisky (6-1) into the Championship Game Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET (CBS national television and RidePass) vs. Team Cooper Tires (7-0).
The 30-year-old was once again up clutch for his team on Saturday night in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as Team Pendleton Whiskey held off Team Las Vegas 174.75-89.5 in a semifinals playoff game.
Eguchi put his team into the lead late in the first half when he converted on Charlie Brown for 87.25 points after Lucas Divino (87.5 points on Smoke Signals) and Chase Dougherty (89.5 points on Heartbreak Kid) exchanged qualified rides.
Dougherty is only the fourth rider in 79 attempts at all levels of competition to reach the 8-second mark on Heartbreak Kid.
Team Pendleton Whisky and Team Las Vegas then bucked off all three of their bulls in the second half, cementing Eguchi and company a spot on Championship Sunday.
“I knew I had to cover both bulls,” Eguchi said. “I know the other team has good riders, so I try to cover my first one and I tried to cover my second one, too. I am happy it worked out with one ride.”
Eguchi (6-for-11) is tied for third in the METC for the most qualified rides.
“You know what? If I’m the Brazilian coach for the Global Cup, this is a guy that, after this competition, I’m saying, ‘Come lead my team. I want you on there with Jose, but I want you to show everybody what it takes to win at this level,’” Team Pendleton Whisky General Manager Justin McBride said on CBS Sports Network. “This is just all guts from a banged-up guy. This is what we’ve seen in Vegas. Great job from Marco Eguchi once again.”
It was Divino, though, getting things started for Team Pendleton Whisky with his ride on Smoke Signals. The No. 8-ranked rider in the world is 5-for-13 in METC competition, and he has had to overcome injuries to his riding hand, shoulder and free arm.
The 26-year-old has never lost his confidence through it all, in part because of Eguchi.
“Riding with Marco makes me really happy because he is giving us a lot of power,” Divino said last month. “He is very positive. He never says, ‘Maybe you can’t.’ All the time, he is very positive. This helps us all a lot. Before we get to the arena, he talk with us. He try to talk to us about fixing little things if we need to.”
Eguchi will certainly be ready to motivate Divino on Sunday with Divino having two monster matchups in the title game vs. Team Cooper Tires.
Divino first takes on three-time World Champion SweetPro’s Bruiser in the first half before a matchup against No. 4 2020 YETI World Champion Bull contender Hocus Pocus.
Bruiser bucked Divino off in 5.08 seconds last year at Last Cowboy Standing to cost him a $100,000 victory in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Hocus Pocus took him down in 2.55 seconds in Round 4 of the 2019 PBR World Finals.
Eguchi will also have two challenges as well. First he has a rematch against No. 9 Smooth Over, who bucked him off in 2.10 seconds almost three years ago in Allen, Texas.
Then the Poa, Brazil, native will close things out for Team Pendleton Whisky against 2019 YETI World Champion Smooth Operator.
The bulls are his team’s opponents, Eguchi reiterated on Saturday night. Not necessarily Team Cooper Tires.
Yes, Cooper Tires is 7-0 and leads the METC with 22 qualified rides, a 51.2% team riding average and 1,880 points, but everything is a clean slate Sunday on national television.
Everything comes down to one game, and whoever rides the most bulls in this one game will be the champion.
“Well, they have excellent riders,” Eguchi said of Jose Vitor Leme, Sage Kimzey, Keyshawn Whitehorse and Stetson Lawrence. “They have been riding good. All four have been really good. I know we are not against each other. We are against the bulls. That is what we have to care about.
“We have to cover our bulls. The competition is still against the bulls. We have to ride and let the judges decide. I just want to ride good.”
Professional Bull Riders – METC Playoffs Game 4
Sioux Falls, SD, 2020
Event Leaders (Round 1-Round 2-Event Aggregate-Event Points)
1. Chase Dougherty, 89.5-0-89.50
2. Lucas Divino, 87.5-0-87.50
3. Marco Eguchi, 87.25-0-87.25
Amadeu Campos Silva, 0-0-0.00
Boudreaux Campbell, 0-0-0.00
Brady Portenier, 0-0-0.00
Garrett Smith, 0-0-0.00
Stetson Wright, 0-0-0.00
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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