By WAYLON GALVEZ
Manila, Philippines – Japeth Aguilar is known for his trademark rim-rattling dunks but the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel forward did the unthinkable during Sunday’s game against Talk N’ Text.
The Gilas Pilipinas mainstay hit a rare three-point shot with less than a second left to propel the Kings to a thrilling 97-95 victory over the Tropang Texters that left fans inside the Smart Araneta Coliseum buzzing.
“It’s a make or break (shot). I just tried to stay calm as possible,” said Aguilar after Ginebra’s 97-95 victory against his former team, defending three-time champion Talk ‘N Text Sunday night in their PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup game.
Not yet done, Aguilar capped his night by blocking Ranidel de Ocampo’s desperation shot as Ginebra bounced back from a 100-87 loss to Meralco last Tuesday.
It was actually Aguilar’s second triple of the game, nailing his first during the Kings’ furious rally from several 14-point deficits. Prior to the match, Aguilar had converted his only three-point shot through four games this conference.
“He’s really practicing that, before and after our regular practice. He’s just shooting the ball from the three-point area,” said LA Tenorio, who gave the ball to Aguilar who converted with 1.1 seconds left.
The 26-year old Aguilar, who stands at 6-foot-9, had a stint with Talk N’ Text in 2012, when he scored a game-winning putback opposite Petron Blaze.
While this one with Ginebra appeared to be a special moment since it happened against TNT, Aguilar said he doesn’t see it that way since he has no axe to grind against his former team that played physical since the opening tip.
“No, not really,” said Aguilar, who finished with a double-double effort 21 points and 12 rebounds on top of seven shot blocks, including the block on de Ocampo.
“Those guys, when they prepare in games like these they will really come prepared. I’m just happy to help the team win. At least we’re in good position,” added Aguilar as Ginebra improved to 4-1 to take solo second place in the standings.
Ginebra ace guard Mark Caguioa, however, sees Aguilar’s performance as a statement game, saying: “Japeth played one of his best games against Talk ‘N Text in his career. He wanted to prove them that ‘nagkaka-mali kayo’ something like that.”
More than making that game-winning shot, what Tenorio sees in Aguilar is his maturity as a player, which started when they became members of the Gilas Pilipinas that clinched a spot in next year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain.
“He listens, kahit minsan nakikita sa game na nagagalit ako sa kanya. But that’s one sign of maturity, ‘yung nakikinig s’ya sakin,” said Tenorio.
“Taking that shot, I have to give it to Japeth. With that big shot, medyo surprise. But there’s an opportunity, so you have to give it to him. He’s also the most consistent among us Ginebra players,” added Tenorio, who like Caguioa played sparingly due to flu.
As the season progresses, Caguioa sees Aguilar improving more and be the team’s take-charge guy.
And that is bad news against opposing teams as Aguilar – the former No. 1 overall rookie pick back in 2009 – is not just a player who loves to rock the rim as he has added a new weapon to his arsenal: three-pointer.