By JONAS TERRADO
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
6:30 p.m. – NorthPort vs Ginebra
Coach Tim Cone believes the Southeast Asian Games stint won’t cause any problems for Barangay Ginebra San Miguel as it faces underdog NorthPort at the start of their best-of-five PBA Governors’ Cup semifinal series tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Tipoff is set at 6:30 p.m. as the pro league resumes action after giving way to the biennial meet which the Cone-mentored Gilas team winning gold via a five-game sweep.
Cone and four members of that national squad – LA Tenorio, Stanley Pringle, Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter – will put their focus back on Ginebra as they aim to draw first blood against a NorthPort squad that stunned top seed NLEX in the quarterfinals.
Though the SEA Games hangover may cause some problems, Cone sees no reason to be worried.
“For the team in the semis, it seems like a long time between games, but for Ginebra, it seems like a really quick turnaround,” said Cone, praising assistant Olsen Racela for running the practices while he was putting his focus primarily on the SEAG.
“Coach Olsen did a great job of keeping our guys sharp and ready during the SEA games, and those players who participated in the SEA Games are pumped to get the semis going. I think we’ll be alright in Game 1,” he added.
But Cone stressed that Game 1 won’t be a cakewalk, knowing how NorthPort is also on high morale after becoming the fourth No. 8 seed to upset a No. 1 in the history of the PBA playoffs.
The Batang Pier also have Christian Standhardinger, who also played for Cone in the SEA Games.
NorthPort also beat Ginebra 98-96 in their lone elimination round meeting last Nov. 17 to secure a quarterfinals berth.
“We know NorthPort is coming in with a lot of confidence and momentum after knocking out the No. 1 seed,” Cone said.
Ginebra’s Justin Brownlee and NorthPort’s Michael Qualls meet in a battle of two prolific imports.
Brownlee is averaging 29.0 points, 13.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.3 blocks this conference while Qualls comes in with 34.0 points, 14.9 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.9 steals and 2.3 blocks.