SCALING Barangay Ginebra’s 'Twin Towers' seemed to have been an easy task for 'The Beast' of Alaska Milk on Tuesday when the Aces dragged the Gin Kings into a sudden-death match in the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals with a 104-97 win.
So Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter promised to make it more difficult for Calvin Abueva come Saturday.
Abueva, last year’s top rookie and a head shorter than both Slaughter and Aguilar, infused the energy that had been missing in past games for Alaska as he registered 16 points, 11 boards — eight on the offensive end, four assists, and three steals on Tuesday.
The 6-foot-9 Aguilar and the 6-foot-11 Slaughter’s numbers didn’t actually pale compared to those of the 6-foot-1 ½ Abueva, but the Kings slotmen know they have to compete with the energizer bunny outside the stats sheet if Ginebra is to win the do-or-die match.
“We need to match his intensity,” said Aguilar, who had 22 points, 12 boards, and two blocks against Alaska.
“He just hustles. He’s just in the right position and a very good rebounder. That’s just what he does,” said Slaughter, who also tallied a double-double of 14 rebounds, 12 points, and two rejections.
They may have lived up to their roles, but Aguilar and Slaughter lacked the help from their teammates as the Aces outrebounded the Kings, 48-46, with Sonny Thoss, Gabby Espinas, and Abueva all reaching double figures in the rebounding department.
“Everyone knows that we can play better, so we just need to do the necessary adjustments,” Slaughter said.
The Kings are also well aware that it's not just Abueva who’s doing the damage for the Aces as guards Dondon Hontiveros, Cyrus Baguio, and Jvee Casio all put up solid numbers as well.
“It’s not just him,” Chris Ellis said of Abueva. “He’s just the one that the cameras are focused on.”
A victory will not only move Ginebra a step closer to the championship, but it would also mean a fitting birthday present for Aguilar, who turns 27 on Saturday.
“That would be the best gift,” Aguilar said.