At the doorstep of writing yet another magical ending to the PBA Governors’ Cup, Barangay Ginebra looks to convert on the first of its two chances to turn the knob in Game 6 on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum, with coach Tim Cone—playing a short rotation—hoping that two days off have given his charges the energy for that.
“It’s good we have an extra day before we play. I always think that’s good for our team. We’re playing a shortened rotation, so any break that we can get is an advantage to us,” he said.
Japeth Aguilar’s persisting calf problem and Arvin Tolentino’s tentative showing has prompted Cone to play Justin Brownlee, Scottie Thompson, LA Tenorio and Christian Standhardinger for extended minutes. That only changed—albeit slightly—in the series’ last two games.
Ginebra can claim its 14th PBA title with another win, but Meralco is standing in the way, finding strength in defiance.
“Well, it takes four wins to win the championship. They’ve only won three games,” said coach Norman Black. “Obviously, I’m not giving up, my players aren’t giving up. We still have a chance at tying the series.”
Black, whose club has lost to Ginebra thrice since 2016, is also hoping that the break is enough time for Meralco to smoothen wrinkles in its game.
“[O]bviously, rotation on defense is really, really important because we just seem to be one rotation late a lot of times against the offense of Ginebra,” Black said. “So really we have to work on that,” he said.
After trailing by as many as 14 points, Meralco threatened to come back in last Sunday’s Game 5. But a lackadaisical effort on defense and an offense conking out in the last minute doomed the Bolts’ bid, ultimately putting them in a perilous position—one that’s all too familiar—in this series.
Black and his wards also trailed 3-2 during the 2017 championship series against Ginebra. But a herculean Game 6 effort from the local crew, then led by Reynel Hugnatan and Garvo Lanete, had the Bolts forcing a winner-take-all decider.
Interestingly, Black is hoping for the same thing four years later.
“Right now, I need my second team to step up and play a lot better because that’s what’s been hurting us the last couple of games,” he said.
“But hey, they only have three wins. We win on Wednesday, we tie the series. That’s what we’re focused on right now,” he added.
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