LADY Luck seems to be smiling on Barangay Ginebra.
On a two-game winning streak, the Kings face an embattled Alaska Aces side Sunday without its celebrated energizer in the main game of a PBA Philippine Cup doubleheader at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces received the bad news Saturday that super-rookie Calvin Abueva will not be able to play in the 6:30 p.m. encounter owing to an infected nasal which the team suspects he acquired after twice being hit in the nose in separate games by by Yancy de Ocampo of San Mig and just days ago, Air21’s Rob Reyes.
Alaska assistant coach Louie Alas confirmed that the no.2 overall pick in this year’s Draft is currently confined at the Cardinal Santos Hospital.
Coach Luigi Trillo earlier intimated to Spin.ph that Abueva has contracted fever due to infection. The former San Sebastian star showed up at practice but was advised by the team’s strength and conditioning coach Gus Vargas not to join the Aces in their scrimmage.
The absence of Abueva is certainly a good news for the Kings, who are currently on a winning roll after struggling for about a month.
Veterans Mark Caguioa, Jayjay Helterbrand, and LA Tenorio have been doing much of the damage for the Kings’ sudden resurgence following five straight losses.
Caguioa, the reigning league MVP, averages 19.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.78 assists for Ginebra (4-5).
On the other hand, Helterbrand has seen his playing time jump from 11.3 to 26 minutes in Barangay Ginebra’s two-game run that came at the expense of a mid-tournament trade involving veteran point guard Mike Cortez being shipped to Air21 in exchange for rookie big man Yousef Taha.
Helterbrand averaged 9.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.5 assists in Ginebra’s last two outings that saw the team edged out Globalport, 81-79 before subduing league-leader Talk ‘N Text, 104-101 in a king-size upset.
Caguioa said they hope to build on this momentum going into the game against the Aces, who embarrassed them in their first round encounter, 85-67.
“Siyempre lalaban kami. Hopefully, we could do the same thing (against Alaska),” said Caguioa, fresh from his first double-double output this season after finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds against the Tropang Texters.
Barangay Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen they are happy with the momentum Ginebra has now, but cautioned his team not to fall into a false sense of security.
“It’s (winning games) not gonna be easy. Malaking working progress pa rin ito sa amin. Alam na nila more or less yung sistema, but at the same time, we need the help din sa mga bata namin. And it has to be balanced,” said Tanquingcen.
“Alaska is a big challenge again. We just need to keep improving and not let these two wins somehow get us to a false sense of security. That’s crucial, yung mental aspect. When things are going well, dapat steady lang kami,” he added.
The Aces (5-5) dropped their last three outings against Rain or Shine (93-101), San Mig Coffee (68-77), and Air21 (103-104) after winning five straight when Abueva joined the team.
Meanwhile, Petron Blaze (4-5) tries to ride the momentum of its confidence-building 96-86 victory over Rain or Shine when it tackles skidding Globalport (1-8) in the curtain raiser at 4:15 p.m.
Rookie center June Mar Fajardo, who is trying to get back into shape after undergoing surgery a month ago, is a game-time decision.
“Napapaisip ako with the losing streak eh. But the players are always there to support me. Again we are short-handed, wala kaming bigs, pero malaking bagay yan (win against Rain or Shine) sa kumpiyansa. Hope we can sustain this,” said Petron rookie coach Olsen Racela.