JAPETH Aguilar just epitomized Barangay Ginebra’s good, old never-say-die spirit.
Despite nursing an MCL injury in his right knee, the 6-foot-9 forward surprisingly suited up in the Kings’ 110-102 win over Talk `N Text in their playoff for the last quarterfinals berth of the PBA Governors Cup Tuesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Aguilar, listed as doubtful for the game, surprisingly started at the power forward spot for the league’s most popular ballclub, played for just five minutes in the first half, and finished the game with two points and a single rebound and a block shot.
[For full story, see Japeth ruled out of do-or-die as lingering pain sets back recovery]
But his presence appeared to have energized and jumpstarted the Gin Kings who raced to a big lead early then held their ground in the end to end the Texters' season.
“Si Japeth kaya niya (maglaro) at gusto niyang maglaro,” said winning coach Ato Agustin of the former Western Kentucky University stalwart, who missed the Kings’ last six games after suffering the injury during the team’s game against Barako Bull.
“Sabi namin, sige kung kaya mong maglaro na puwede kang mag-lateral okay.”
At the same time, the Kings also had to make adjustment with Aguilar back in the lineup.
“Kaya kami nag-zone dahil sa kanya (Japeth). Ayaw naming gumalaw, ng maraming movement,” Agustin added.
Aguilar said there is still some pain in his knee, but wants to help Ginebra badly that he willed himself to play.
"May go signal din naman ng doctor e," said the former Ateneo center, who added he'll continue his theraphy and rehabilitation.
With the Kings now in the playoffs as the eight-seeded team, they face another do-or-die situation when they battle top-seeded Petron Boosters on Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
As the no. 1 team at the end of the eliminations, the Boosters enjoy a twice-to-beat advantage over the Kings.
Asked if Aguilar will play for Ginebra again opposite Petron, Agustin nodded, and said, “Of course, maglalaro `yun.”