By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Team Pendleton Whisky captain Marco Eguchi could barely walk out of the Pendleton Whisky Let ‘Er Buck Saloon at South Point Arena on Sunday morning.
Eguchi has been riding with a partially torn left groin in Las Vegas at the Monster Energy Team Challenge, presented by U.S. Border Patrol, and he had to dig deep Sunday to lead Pendleton Whisky to a Division B championship.
The 30-year-old put forth one of his grittiest efforts since winning the 2018 World Finals event title despite being knocked unconscious by Spotted Demon as he went 2-for-2 to lead Team Pendleton Whisky (5-1) to a 258.75-88.5 victory over Team Ariat (4-1-1).
“Sometimes injuries make us stronger,” Eguchi told PBR.com on Sunday afternoon following the victory during the CBS Game of the Week. “Like a team, because you know each other is not 100%. We are trying to do our best. It is hard because of our injuries, but this makes us stronger as a team. We know we have to depend on each other and give our best.”
The victory netted Pendleton Whisky the Division B championship and, more importantly, a first-round bye for Championship Weekend in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on July 10-12.
Team Pendleton Whisky will take on the winner of Team Las Vegas (4-2) vs. Team Boot Barn (3-2-1) in the second round on July 11 inside the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center with fans in attendance.
“It is not just a day off,” Eguchi said. “It is eight bulls off. We have two bulls each less. So when you put all those bulls together, two bulls doesn’t sound like that much, but if you have to ride two bulls in all three days that makes it worse. We have two bulls less and that gives us more opportunity, especially when we talk about our injuries.”
The Sioux Falls playoffs will consist of the top three teams from each division. Also qualifying for the postseason included Team Cooper Tires, Team Ariat and Team Can-Am.
For each postseason game, all four members of each team will get on two bulls, for eight outs per team per game. The team with the highest aggregate score in each game is the winning team. This is different than the regular-season format where teams only used three riders per game.
The first-round bye, as well as two weeks off, is crucial for Team Pendleton Whisky.
Eguchi has a partially torn left groin that dates back to May 10 when he injured it attempting to ride 2020 YETI World Champion Bull contender Chiseled in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
Meanwhile, Lucas Divino and Amadeu Campos leave Las Vegas with even more injuries than when they first arrived two weeks ago.
Divino has a riding hand injury, a bruised right forearm and a bruised right shoulder, as well as injuries to his free arm.
“I need to go home and treat my body because I feel a lot of pain,”Divino told Kate Harrison CBS. “I hurt all over my body, but I hope I will be OK and keep helping my friends and my teammates and support them in everything.”
Campos arrived at the METC with an unstable left shoulder, and he then strained his right hamstring on Friday night in Pendleton Whisky’s victory over Team Cat.
Team Pendleton Whisky General Manager Justin McBride said on CBS national television that his team absolutely needed to earn the bye.
“For Pendleton, man, that was almost a must-have for the physical shape they are in right now,” McBride said to Craig Hummer. “Team Pendleton probably wasn’t the favorite coming into this competition, but they believed in each other and they believed in themselves, and they are coming out of this division as the best team.”
Eguchi finished Division B play a team-best 5-for-9, and he is sitting third in the Built Ford Tough MVP race.
The seven-time PBR World Finals qualifier got Pendleton Whisky on the scoreboard first Sunday with 86.75 points on Pink Tornado.
Team Ariat captain Cooper Davis then put his team back into the lead with an 88.5-point ride on Melanie’s Dream.
Eguchi then countered Davis with an 86-point ride on Buck Wild to open the second half, and teammate Boudreaux Campbell chipped in another 86 points with his ride on Just Incredi-Bull.
Ariat bucked off all three of its bulls in the second half, and they will take on Team Can-Am (3-3) in the first round of Championship Weekend in Sioux Falls on July 10.
“Marco Eguchi is the heart and soul of this team,” McBride said. “They had to have this guy reach down extra deep today and that is exactly what Marco did. He got some help from Boudreaux Campbell, but Marco Eguchi is the backbone of Team Pendleton.”
Campbell was a new addition to Team Pendleton Whisky, and he went 3-for-6 this weekend to help his team win the Division B crown.
“I’m really thankful I got to come back and ride for Team Pendleton and coach Justin McBride,” Campbell told PBR.com. “My teammates are warriors and fought through injuries, and I’m glad I was there to help out a little bit.”
Eguchi had originally hoped he could have skipped the first weekend of Division B competition to rest his groin, but that was not going to be an option for Team Pendleton Whisky.
Instead, Eguchi admirably rode through his injuries as best he could, and he is looking forward to some time off before the Championship Weekend.
“I come this weekend a little bit sore from last weekend,” Eguchi said. “I try to forget about any pain and ride every bull. It is not like I am in full pain like when I hurt it in Guthrie. It is just something that bothers me. It is hard to have the confidence in that leg.
“I am feeling better now that I have tested it. I will be good for Sioux Falls.”
Professional Bull Riders – Team Challenge – Game 36
Las Vegas, NV, 2020
Event Leaders (Round 1-Round 2-Event Aggregate-Event Points)
1. Marco Eguchi, 86.75-86-172.75
2. Cooper Davis, 88.5-0-88.50
3. Boudreaux Campbell, 0-86-86.00
Lucas Divino, 0-0-0.00
Amadeu Campos Silva, 0-0-0.00
Tyler Bingham, 0-0-0.00
Ky Hamilton, 0-0-0.00
Maverick Potter, 0-0-0.00
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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