Coach Tim Cone and Barangay Ginebra can at least focus on fun and games for the next few days without worrying about the twice-to-beat advantage they were able to clinch before select members of the Gin Kings contingent came to Passi City, Iloilo province, on Thursday.
“It’s gonna be more fun than work,” said Cone, who won’t be arriving until the following day to take part in activities leading up to his role as coach of Team Japeth against Team Scottie this weekend at City of Passi Arena.
Cone would have been forced to think of work amid the revelry of the midseason extravaganza had Ginebra suffered an upset loss to Terrafirma the previous night at Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
Ginebra survived Terrafirma’s gallant stand and claimed a 109-104 win to secure the quarterfinal bonus with its 8-2 win-loss record. A defeat would have pressured the Gin Kings to beat the TNT Tropang Giga on March 16 in order to avoid falling to a possible twice-to-win scenario.
“It was like a championship game for us,” Cone said. “We really needed to come out and win this game because we don’t have to fool around in the penultimate game and lose to TNT and drop all the way down to maybe fifth or sixth and have to beat somebody twice.”
‘We weren’t free’
But the Gin Kings needed to hurdle a tough Dyip side which had nothing at stake but the hope of ending another miserable conference and season on a winning note.
Justin Brownlee had 38 points while Jamie Malonzo’s dunk sealed the final count for the Gin Kings going into the All-Star break.
“We played it a little tight. We weren’t free, easy and flowing just because of the magnitude of the game,” said Cone, who saw the Jordan Williams-led Terrafirma crew lead several times in the fourth quarter.
Several members of the Ginebra contingent were part of a big group that arrived at Iloilo International Airport, namely Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, Christian Standhardinger, Malonzo, Jeremiah Gray and Nards Pinto.
Also part of the delegation here are some members of the Ginebra staff and assistant coach Richard del Rosario, who will call the shots for Team Greats against Team Stalwarts on Friday.
Scheduled as well are side events that include the Slam Dunk contest which Malonzo has decided to skip due to an ailing knee.
Malonzo and the rest of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) All-Star delegation spent Thursday touring the city for activities such as a courtesy call with Passi City officials and a meet-and-greet session with fans.
While it is another busy week for the aforementioned Ginebra personnel, Cone is glad that Brownlee will finally get a chance to relax and recharge after a grueling past few weeks not only for Ginebra, but also for Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
“Thank goodness, Justin’s gonna get some rest and get ready for the playoffs,” said Cone before joking, “we’re tying him to his bed and he has to lie down all the time and sleep for the next five days.”
While Malonzo would have been an exciting entry to the Slam Dunk contest, PBA commissioner Willie Marcial said here that he wouldn’t be imposing anything on the electrifying swingman other than to heal as fast as he could.
“He told me that he wanted to do the dunk contest but he is bothered by his knee,” Marcial said.
“I told him not to do it anymore. If this was the 3-Point Shootout, I’d let him play through it. But the Slam Dunk contest? He might suffer an injury and I might be blamed by both the team and its fans,” he added.
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