(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. --Columbian vs. San Miguel
7 p.m.-- Blackwater vs. Ginebra
FOR Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone, the coming weekend where his team plays Blackwater and San Miguel Beer will provide a good challenge.
“It will be a tough weekend for us to get through,” said Cone on the eve of the Gin Kings’ much-awaited battle against fellow unbeaten Blackwater in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“It’s been a long break, we’re battling injuries, and we’re playing a hot team in Blackwater followed by SMB,” added Cone as the Gin Kings look forward for today’s 7 p.m. encounter against an Elite team which survived three major tests to earn an unfamiliar spot at the top of the 12-team standings.
The winner of the Ginebra-Blackwater encounter will gain the solo lead in the season-ending tournament, and Cone is simply too happy to have Japeth Aguilar and Scottie Thompson return healthy from their stints with the PBA-backed Philippine teams to the Asian Games and the FIBA World Cup 2019 Qualifiers.
“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 and Scottie came back to us healthy and ready to go,” said Cone in an interview posted at the official PBA website.
“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.
Cone’s counterpart, Bong Ramos of Blackwater, is just as excited to see how far his team can go, especially after the team posted its franchise-best 3-0 start.
“The win against NorthPort was a test of character for the team,” said Ramos after the Elite’s 113-111 come-from-behind win over the Batang Pier last Wednesday.
The Elite shrugged off an early18-point deficit and kept their poise in the face of the Batang Pier’s unrelenting pressure to win.
“They really want to get a third win tonight. They want to face Ginebra on Friday (today) coming off a win,” said Ramos. “It’s a character-building and test (for us).”
Interestingly, Ginebra’s last win also came against NorthPort,104-98, last Sept. 5.
As interesting will be the battle between PBA Best Import awardee Justine Brownlee of Ginebra and six-year-NBA veteran Henry Walker.
Blackwater is also getting consistent numbers from JP Erram, Mike Digregorio, John Pinto, Mac Belo and Chris Javier.
In the 4:30 p.m. curtainraiser, San Miguel hopes to rebound from a stunning 100-103 loss to Blackwater when it plays winless Columbian Dyip.
Led by former Best Import winner AZ Reid, San Miguel routed NLEX, 125-112, last Sept 1, before the loss to Blackwater.
The Dyip,on the other hand, are still winless in five games.