IS Barangay Ginebra and Meralco a rivalry in the making?
Bolts mentor Norman Black thinks so, especially with the way both teams had been engaged in memorable intense battles from the 2016 PBA Governors Cup finals to as recent as Friday night’s Governors Cup game at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Meralco turned back Ginebra, 93-82, in a game marred by two separate spats between Anjo Caram and LA Tenorio, and yes, Cliff Hodge and coach Tim Cone.
While Black didn’t give his approval on both incidents, it nonetheless convinced him that there is now an ongoing bad blood between the two franchises.
“I didn’t really like the fact that it happened,” Black said, referring to the Hodge-Cone incident. “But at the same time, it’s a rivalry already.”
The squabble is just the latest between the budding rivalry, which the Kings have so far dominated, winning the last two editions of the Governors Cup finals at the expense of the Bolts.
In the 2017 finals, Black and Cone also figured in a similar spat at the end of Game Three when the Ginebra coach didn’t shake hands with Black after the Meralco mentor called a late timeout and the result of the game a foregone conclusion.
Black and Cone, two of the league’s most accomplished coaches, later buried the hatchet and put the incident behind them.
But Friday night’s victory was proof how badly the Bolts wanted to beat the Kings, according to Black.
“I mean, they have been on the winning end most of the time, but it’s a rivalry and every time we see them, we want to win. And we played very well to get the win,” Black said.
Hodge disagrees, saying Ginebra and Meralco have not developed a rivalry yet. For that to happen, Hodge said Meralco has to hurdle Ginebra in the finals, something which the Bolts haven’t done yet.
“We play super hard when we play against each other but honestly, until we win a championship against them or anything like that, I don’t feel that it is a rivalry yet because they’ve beaten us every single time.
“I guess you could call it a rivalry but not yet. Not until we prove it,” Hodge said.
Meralco import Arinze Onuaku said it is premature for him to call Ginebra a rival since Friday was the first time he played against the Kings.
In his first game against Ginebra, Onuaku was impressive, finishing with 24 points, 23 rebounds and three block shots.
But the import said playing against the country’s most popular team is enough reason for Meralco to play a notch higher.
“I don’t know. I haven’t been to the playoffs against Ginebra. We know they are a fan favorite so I guess everybody gets up when they play them because they know that a lot of fans like them and the place is going to be loud. I mean everyone wants to play in that tough environment,” said Onuaku.