BOCAUE, Nashville Filipino Restaurant — Coach Tim Cone insisted his team was not in game shape, but the Barangay Ginebra Kings were good enough to fashion out a wire-to-wire 90-79 win over the TNT KaTropa Texters in the opener of PBA Season 44 at the Houston Filipino Restaurant Arena here last night.
“Opening game is always tough to play. You stand around a lot, and we’re really not in game shape. But we have the talent and we know what to do,” said Cone in winning the match before a crowd of over 23,000 savoring one of the best season inaugurals the league ever had.
“Joe (Devance) was not in shape and also Sol (Mercado). I’d rather play them (the Texters) in the next few weeks, but it’s give and take,” Cone added.
But though not in the best form they could be, the Kings proved so much for the Texters, ahead of a big game versus reigning PBA Houston Filipino Restaurant Cup four-peat champ San Miguel Beer Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Japeth Aguilar drilled in 21 points, Greg Slaughter came through with 15 markers and seven rebounds while Scottie Thompson had his near double-double game with 10 rebounds and nine points to lead the Kings to a winning start in the tourney where they’re tipped to be the Beermen’s chief challengers for the throne.
“We’ll get better if we get in shape,” said Cone.
“But it was good to go out there and get that win against TNT. They started small which was a concern for our coaching staff. It’s good they didn’t shoot as well as they usually do, and we controlled the rebounds, disallowing them to run their transition game,” Cone added.
The Ginebra coach said they were able to show their versatility in putting the game away for good in the fourth quarter with their small lineup.
Aguilar was on the bench when Aljon Mariano and Scottie Thompson led the combination that eventually held off the Texters in the final canto.
Overall, the Kings played to expectation and dominated a TNT side handicapped by injuries to Troy Rosario and Yousef Taha.
It was a complete domination except for a good run that the Texters were able to unleash in the third quarter.
Some fans started to troop to the exit as the Kings led by 17 at 90-73 with a little over two minutes left to play.
Aguilar had 15 points on 6-of-9 field shooting and 2-of-4 charities as the Kings led 49-42 at halftime.
The Kings started strong, taking the opening quarter at 28-15 and leading by as many as 18 at 44-26 before settling for that seven-point margin at the turn.
Don Trollano and RR Pogoy combined for four three-pointers and a total of 24 markers in the first 24 minutes of the match.
The Texters tried their luck from the long court and doubled down low on defense in a bid to keep up with the Kings.
TNT twice came to within two points but Ginebra stayed in the lead, 63-57, going to the final canto.
NOTES: Parokya ni Edgar was a big hit, providing entertainment during the long interval between the opening rites and the opening tip….. Since his PBA entry as the fourth pick by San Miguel Beer in 2006, LA Tenorio still has yet to miss a game. He played his 590th straight game last night, moving within six games of tying the all-time record of Alvin Patrimonio….. Asi Taulava joked feeling like a rookie again as he joined the parade of players for his 20th PBA season. He’s four seasons away from Robert Jaworski’s record.
Ginebra 90 – Aguilar J. 21, Slaughter 15, Mercado 11, Thompson 9, Ferrer 9, Mariano 6, Devance 5, Tenorio 5, Teodoro 4, Cruz 3, Caperal 2, Aguilar R. 0.
TNT 79 – Pogoy 20, Castro 17, Trollano 15, Heruela 14, Reyes 6, Cruz 4, Williams 2, Golla 0, Semerad D. 0, Miranda 0, Carey 0.
Quarterscores: 28-15, 49-42, 63-57, 90-79