By TITO S. TALAO
Mark Caguioa has been around long enough to entertain any illusions about the nature of winning.
And against Globalport Friday night, the leader of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel was again made aware that they were able to pull it off only because the Batang Pier weren’t as equipped as, say, San Mig Super Coffee, to muster one killer sprint down the stretch.
“End game na naman. Muntik na naman kaming matalo,” said Caguioa inside the Kings’ locker room after they turned back Globalport, 113-107, in the PLDT Home TVolution PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome.
“Ganito rin noon against San Mig. We played three great quarters, tapos bigla kaming nawala sa fourth.”
Caguioa finished with 15 points and an amazing team-high 14 rebounds against winless Globalport but was only 6 of 17 from the floor, missing 3 of 4 three-point shots. He had two points in the fourth quarter and was still on the bench with seven minutes remaining when the Batang Pier were breathing down their necks.
“We need to take better care of the ball, especially in the fourth quarter; talk more on defense,” said the 2011 PBA most valuable player. “Yung maliliit na bagay ba, doon kasi kami natatalo e.”
Against the Mixers, Ginebra came out ahead after 12 minutes and was still leading at halftime. San Mig eventually pulled ahead, 69-67, going to the fourth but everything remained manageable at that point, with both teams headed a promising down-the-wire finish.
Then the Kings’ communication lines shut down.
In a flash, San Mig was all over, pouncing on the late-game lapse and outscoring the Kings, 21-13, on the way to a 90-80 win.
“Minsan, we’re too aggressive sa offense, tapos nawawala naman kami sa defense,” said Caguioa, who had 4 points on 2 of 6 shooting that evening. “At times, me biglang nao-open sa ilalim na kailangang meron switch pero di naman nangyayari. We just need to communicate more on defense.”
The need for more familiarity among them, Caguioa said, is also a factor in their early struggle for identity.
“Yung iba din kasi sa ‘min di pa gaanong banat sa laro, tulad ni Gregg [Slaughter] na isang conference pa lang naman with us,” he said. “We just need to play more games and hopefully magje-jell din kami. Maganda naman ang nilalaro namin sa ensayo e. We just need to bring it to the game.”
In a three-way tie at 4th spot with Air21 and Meralco, the Kings will have to bring it to the game in a big way this afternoon when they face undefeated pace-setter Talk ‘N Text.
“We have to be on the same page for that game,” said Caguioa.
And Leon Rodgers – have all these rumors about him being replaced become a distraction to the team?
“Di naman,” said Caguioa. “Ito namang si Leon, kita mo he’s communicating with the players naman. And that’s a rare thing for imports na ganyang na nagje-jell kayo kaagad. He’s doing whatever is necessary to help the team – scoring, depensa, rebounds. He’s all right.”
Which means you have faith in him?
“Of course, I do,” Caguioa said, his long years of experience evident in the conviction in his voice.