ALASKA tries to pounce on a short-handed Barangay Ginebra squad as the two protagonists in last Commissioner’s Cup Finals tangle for the first time on Sunday in a pivotal PBA Governors Cup match up at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Aces swept the Gin Kings, 3-0 in the Finals en route to winning their first PBA title in the post-Tim Cone era.
Luigi Trillo and the Aces managed to book their first win this conference after trouncing Rain or Shine on Wednesday, 94-79, behind a balanced scoring attack and airtight defense.
The Aces (1-1) will try to duplicate that feat against a Ginebra squad (1-2), which won’t have injured big men Japeth Aguilar and Kerby Raymundo in their 6:30 p.m. contest.
Aguilar sustained a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee after landing awkwardly Friday night in the Gin Kings’ 91-104 loss to the Barako Bull Energy Cola.
The 6-foot-9 Aguilar limped out of the court at the 4:01 mark of the first period after managing to split his free throws. He never returned to the floor.
Raymundo is still out for an indefinite period due to a bone bruise on his right knee.
Still, Trillo is bracing for an all-out war against the Gin Kings as he expects battle-scarred veterans led by reigning PBA MVP Mark Caguioa and former Alaska top playmaker LA Tenorio to lead the locals in supporting import Dior Lowhorn.
“Every time Ginebra plays a bad game, they really play well in their next. So I expect them to be aggressive even though they won’t have Japeth. Why? Because their roles will be much more defined,” Trillo said.
Alaska will have to put the clamps on Tenorio, who just last week torched the Meralco Bolts with a new career-high 34 points en route to the Gin Kings’ 98-85 win, although he had an anemic four-point performance on Friday.
“LA is a competitor. I mean, when the chips were down last conference, he almost single-handedly brought the team back to the Finals. He’ll surely find ways to help,” he added.
For Gin Kings coach Ato Agustin, he expects local big men Billy Mamaril and Rico Maierhofer to pick up their game and try to help out Lowhorn down low.
The Gin Kings will miss the 6’9” Aguilar’s conferences stats of 10 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 57.1 percent field goal shooting, which he registered during the team’s first two games.
“Kailangan talagang mag-bounce back. Kulang kasi ang intensity naming (in the loss to Barako Bull),” rued Agustin.
“Siyempre maiiba kami ngayon without Japeth and Kerby. Kailangang mag-step up ang ibang big men namin.”