by Waylon Galvez
Games Wednesday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
5:45 p.m. – Air21 vs Barako Bull
8 p.m. – Petron Blaze vs Globalport
No. 1 overall pick Greg Slaughter debuted impressively, but it was Dylan Ababou who keyed Barangay Ginebra’s explosive start.
Sidelined for most of last season due to various injuries, Ababou scored all 16 of his points in the second half as he ignited a comeback by Ginebra in the third quarter on its way to a resounding 86-69 win over San Mig Coffee at the start of the PLDT MyDSL PBA Philippine Cup last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Diagnosed to have an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) on his right knee, Ababou connived with LA Tenorio in a torrid third quarter run to rip the game wide open – thanks to a 22-7 salvo.
That turned a 12-point deficit (36-48) to a 58-55 advantage entering the final quarter as chants of “Ginebra! Ginebra! Ginebra!” reverberated at the packed record-crowd of 20,298, eclipsing last season’s opening game crowd of 18,901 when Ginebra defeated Globalport.
The game’s last deadlock was shattered by Val Acuna’s three-pointer, 58-all, but Ababou was not yet done with his demolition job, sparking another run – this time – for good.
He was helped in that run by Slaughter, Tenorio and JayR Reyes.
Ababou’s third triple of the game capped a 20-10 blast that gave the Kings a comfortable 78-55 advantage with 4:53 left to play. The former University of Santo Tomas University stalwart also had three rebounds in just 17 minutes of action.
Meanwhile in Cebu City, Jayson Castro scored 20 points while rookie Eliud Poligrates sizzled for 15 points in his hometown as four-peat seeking Talk ’N Text downed Meralco, 89-80, at the New Cebu Coliseum.
Rain or Shine and Alaska, on the other hand, are playing at presstime in Davao City.
Ababou’s second half performance overshadowed the team-high 18 points of Japeth Aguilar.
The 6-foot-9 Aguilar also had eight rebounds together with five of the team’s seven shot blocks, while Tenorio contributed 17 markers and 10 assists.
Slaughter wound up with decent numbers of 10 points and 13 rebounds. Reyes, acquired in a trade with Meralco for Kerby Raymundo, added 10 points off the bench.
“In the second half we’re able to dictate the tempo,” said Ginebra coach Ato Agustin as he shuffled his rotation and finally got a break when he inserted Ababou and Emman Monfort (obtained in a trade with Barako Bull for Rob Labagala) in the third frame.
“I hope we can continue yung ginagawa namin. It’s just the first win, ‘di dapat mag-saya. It’s a long way to go. We still need to adjust on several things. We all agreed in our training camp na walang pang sarili, we have to help each other, cheer each other maski nasa bench ka,” added Agustin.
It was best exemplified when veteran guard and former MVP Mark Caguioa and sophomore forward Chris Ellis were rested one after the other and Ababou and Monfort came in for them in the third quarter.
Both players did not return to the game but Ellis still ended with seven points while Caguioa had two points.
“Sobrang saya, saka malaking bagay sa confidence ng team, sa confidence ng management, and sa confidence ko na din,” said Ababou of his performance, adding it was extra special for him winning against San Mig as it was the same team where he suffered an ACL last November.
As for the 7-foot center Slaughter, Agustin said his arrival gave Ginebra that much-needed inside presence as he and the 6-foot-9 Aguilar formed an intimidating ‘twin tower’ combination.Slaughter also added two shots blocks to his statistics.
“Iba pa rin pag may malaki. Intimidation ang hinahanap namin, naging maganda defense namin kasi nanjan si Greg and Japeth,” said Agustin.
San Mig, nearly three weeks removed from its title campaign in the Governors’ Cup, was led by Mark Barroca’s 14 points, while Acuna had 11 markers. Former two-time MVP James Yap and No. 2 overall pick Ian Sangalang finished with eight apiece.
The Mixers played sans Joe Devance (left MCL) while PJ Simon was in uniform but did not play due to bruised Achilles tendon.