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    Ginebra, San Mig duel to the death in one of most anticipated PBA games in years

    Feb 12, 2014
    Mark Caguioa, coach Ato Agustin and the rest of the Gin Kings hope to overcome the edge in experience which coach Tim Cone, James Yap and the Mixers enjoy in Game Seven. Jerome Ascano 

    BARANGAY Ginebra coach Ato Agustin has played countless do-or-die playoff matches in his career and he knows exactly what his team needs to do in this one.

    Stay aggressive, lessen turnovers, and put the ball in steady hands come crunch time.

    If the Gin Kings can do that, Agustin, a second-round pick who rose to become league MVP, feels the crowd darlings will have a good chance of coming out alive in Game Seven of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal playoff against San Mig on Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

    Ginebra has been the most impressive team on paper in the league this season and entered the playoffs as the top seed, but it has played catch-up against San Mig in what has been a riveting best-of-seven series for the right to face Rain or Shine in the finals.

    In fact, the Gin Kings would not be in this position now had they not climbed back from a 14-point deficit to win Game Six, 94-91, on Monday night in a game witnessed by a sellout crowd at the Big Dome led by Ginebra's legendary former player-coach, Robert Jaworski.

    But if surviving Game Six is tough, Agustin knows winning the deciding seventh will be tougher considering San Mig has a group of players led by James Yap, Marc Pingris and even young guard Mark Barroca who has loads of championship experience under its belt.

    Except for LA Tenorio, Mark Caguioa, and Jayjay Helterbrand, no other Gin King has had an experience in this type of environment.

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    That's why Agustin wants Ginebra to be aggressive from the get-go to set the tone for the entire game.

    "We need to be aggressive, that's the key," said the longtime San Miguel Beer star. "So hustle saka kailangan mas mataas ang intensity namin kaysa sa kanila (Mixers)."

    Another major concern for Agustin is turnovers, which has cost Ginebra a couple of games in the series.

    "Again, if we want to beat San Mig, we need to cut our turnovers."

    But when push comes to shove, the Ginebra coach wants the ball in the hands of Caguioa, the former league MVP and the Kings' acknowledged heart and soul.

    Caguioa has had a spotty series, but there's no doubt in Agustin's mind that he will be Ginebra's surest hand in this game.

    "Sabi ko sa kanya, kailangan ma-involve siya parati sa offense. If he feels it, get the ball," said Agustin.

    On the other hand, San Mig coach Tim Cone said they have moved on from that Game Six loss, which saw them collapse in the face of a tenacious Gin Kings rally in the fourth quarter as well as a crucial foul slapped on James Yap with 16 seconds left.

    The 6-foot-2 Yap was whistled for a foul by referee Edward Aquino as Caguioa was clutching the ball off a rebound, even if there was very minimal - if negligible - contact.

    Cone, though, said San Mig is not about to dwell on the past.

    "We just try to make sure our guys are focused forward and not think back," said Cone. "We're a confident bunch. These guys (Mixers) have been there (Game Seven) before. They know how to play in this game and we're comfortable playing Game Seven."

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    Mark Caguioa, coach Ato Agustin and the rest of the Gin Kings hope to overcome the edge in experience which coach Tim Cone, James Yap and the Mixers enjoy in Game Seven. Jerome Ascano 
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