By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
TWO of three teams still unbeaten in the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup, the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings and Blackwater Elite try to keep their respective clean slates intact when they collide today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Sporting identical 3-0 records, both the Kings and Elite are out to extend their good start in the season-ending PBA tournament in their 7 p.m. main game encounter.
Preceding the match at 4:30 p.m. are the San Miguel Beermen (1-1) against the Columbian Dyip (0-5).
Two-time defending champion Barangay Ginebra, also winner of the previous conference Commissioner’s Cup, has been a roll to begin its campaign for a three-peat.
Import Justin Brownlee has been do-it-all anew for the Kings, averaging 35.3 points, 13 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals in three games to date.
Providing valuable support for Mr. Brownlee are Japeth Aguilar, who is experiencing one of his best tournaments in the PBA with numbers of 20.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, and a block, and Greg Slaughter who has been good for 13.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and two blocks per game.
LA Tenorio is chipping in 9.3 points and 6.7 assists with Scottie Thompson is all-around for 7.3 points, 7.7 assists, 10.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals.
Despite doing well to start their campaign in the Governors’ Cup though, coach Tim Cone said they are still far from where they want to be and need to fine-tune their game some more.
“We need to be a lot better than what we’re playing right now. We’re not staying to our character at this point. We’re just doing what we can to survive,” said Mr. Cone following their 104-98 victory over Northport Batang Pier on Sept. 5, before the PBA went on a two-week break to give way to the league-backed national team’s campaign in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
“We need to find our discipline a little more. We need more flow and we need more focus on defense. Hopefully those come around as we move forward,” he added.
It remains to be seen, however, if Mr. Slaughter will play today after injuring his ankle against the Batang Pier not made him miss Team Pilipinas games at the Asian Qualifiers.
Meanwhile, the Elite are right smack in the middle of their best start in the PBA to date with their 3-0 card.
The unblemished record came under threat from Northport last Wednesday but Blackwater found a way to eventually finish on top, 113-111.
Blackwater had it slow to start the contest before willing itself back in the game the rest of the way to frustrate Northport.
Import Henry Walker finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Elite, followed by Michael DiGregorio and Poy Erram with 19 points each.
Mac Belo was the other Blackwater player in double figures with 13.
“It was a test of character for the team. They really wanted to get a third win tonight. They wanted to face Ginebra on Friday coming off a win. It’s a character-building win for us,” said Blackwater coach Bong Ramos in the postgame press conference following their win over Northport.