(Mall of Asia Arena)
Game 5, best-of-seven semifinal series
7 p.m. – Ginebra vs. Star Hotshots
Series tied at 2-2
ONE can just imagine how difficult the times have been for Barangay Ginebra which continues to rise to the challenge in the PBA Philippine Cup.
First, the Gin Kings were without Greg Slaughter already even before the start of the kickoff conference after the slotman suffered an ACL injury in a Governors’ Cup game against Mahindra last September.
Slaughter needs long time to complete the rehabilitation and he would be back to action late in the next conference or early in the third conference.
Two of Tim Cone’s big men in the lineup – Japeth Aguilar and Joe DeVance – likewise suffered injuries in the course of the Gin Kings’ elimination campaign and in the quarterfinal round.
With Cone making do with his available men in the roster, the Gin Kings struggled in the elimination, and were lucky enough to advance to the playoff where they needed to win twice over Alaska to advance to the semifinal round.
The Gin Kings got to hurdle the two tough victories over the Aces, but took its toll in the semis after they lost two straight to the Star Hotshots.
With DeVance and Aguilar slowly regaining their strength, the Gin Kings made a big turnaround and beat the Hotshots two in a row to level the best-of-7 semifinal series at two games apiece.
Cone though seemed to have been accustomed already to the sticky situation of the Gin Kings.
“Our players have shown great resilience all conference long so we like our chances,” said Cone, who has probably seen all kinds of challenge in the countless playoff battles he had been into in the past.
“We know it’s going to be another great defensive battle and we’ll have to find a way to grind it out,” Cone had said prior to Game 4 which they won, 93-86, last Wednesday in a game where the team’s second stringers delivered.
“It wasn’t about L.A. (Tenorio) and Japeth (Aguilar). It’s all about other guys today,” said Cone after the Gin Kings’ Game 4 victory.
With the way the Gin Kings and the Hotshots split the first four outings, fans are in for another intense action when the sister teams resume their so-called Manila Clasico duel in Game 5 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The 7 p.m. tussle is so crucial, whoever wins will move within a game of clinching a spot in the best-of-seven finals against either San Miguel Beer or Talk ‘N Text, which were playing as of press time to break the 2-2 standoff in their separate series.
Gervy Cruz, Chris Ellis and rookie Kevin Ferrer made their presence felt and complemented Aguilar’s big performance as the Gin Kings pulled off their second straight win in the best-of-seven series.