Kings test Elite mettle; Beermen eye rebound
PBA Governors Cup
MANILA, Philippines — Titleholder Barangay Ginebra and raging Blackwater fight for the solo lead while San Miguel Beer seeks to bounce back from an upset loss the last time out as it tangles with Columbian Dyip in the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum tonight.
The Beermen (1-1) and the Dyip (0-5) clash at 4:30 p.m. then the Kings (3-0) and the Elite (3-0) collide at 7 p.m. to usher in a busy weekend schedule that will see Kiwi coach Mark Dickel’s debut on the TNT KaTropa bench in their game against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in Passi, Iloilo tomorrow.
Ginebra and San Miguel hope to get past Blackwater and Columbian Dyip, respectively, as they brace for their keenly awaited match at the Big Dome Sunday.
Ginebra coach Tim Cone said it’s a tough back-to-back games for them while dealing an assortment of injuries.
“It’s been a long break, and we’re battling injuries and we’re playing a hot team in Blackwater followed by San Miguel Beer. It will be a tough weekend for us to get through,” said Cone.
“Our injury list is long at this point – Greg Slaughter, Joe Devance, Sol Mercado, Jervy Cruz, Julian Sargent, Raymond Aguilar, Art dela Cruz. Thankfully, Japeth (Aguilar) and Scottie (Thompson) came back to us healthy and ready to go,” Cone also said.
Aguilar and Thompson will lead Ginebra fresh from their stint with the national team in the most recent window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.
“We will lean on them to push us through these back-to-back games. When it gets tough, the tough gets going. We’ll see if we can live up to that,” he added.
The Kings have racked up three straight wins over the Columbian Dyip, the Alaska Milk Aces and the NorthPort Batang Pier before being beset by health woes.
The Blackwater Elite have kept pace with the Kings in drubbing the Batang Pier, 113-111, Wednesday night.
“It’s a good win providing us the momentum going to our game against Ginebra,” said Blackwater coach Bong Ramos. “Ginebra is the reigning champ. But we’ll come out and see what we can do.”
Blackwater is on its strongest start in a tourney ever, scoring reversals against the Texters and the Beermen before nailing win No. 3 over the Batang Pier.
Ramos’ troops charged back from an 18-point deficit late in the first half and found unlikely heroes in Chris Javier and John Pinto at crunch time in salvaging the win.
Henry Walker, Mike Digregorio and Poy Erram carried the cudgels early on before Javier and Pinto seized the moment at endgame as the Elite sustained their amazing hot run and caught up with the Barangay Ginebra Kings ahead of their exciting matchup.
Javier, a sparingly used player since turning pro as the second-round draft selection by Magnolia in 2016, knocked in two big baskets to make it 108-101 for Blackwater with 1:47 left to play.
Then Blackwater was only up by three at 108-105 when Pinto drilled in a trey with time down to 31.5 seconds, capping a solid all-around game marked by a career-high 13 assists, eight points and seven rebounds.