Ginebra, Star poles apart, but Cone expects nothing less than scrap between rivals
Ginebra coach Tim Cone is bracing for a tough battle against rival Star, which is looking to climb out of the bottom four in the standings. Jaime Campos

THEIR wide gap in the standings won’t prevent a tight battle as Barangay Ginebra and Star rekindle their rivalry on Sunday in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Usually within close distance from each other during their face-offs, the Gin Kings and Hotshots are now poles part at this stage of the season-ending tournament, with Ginebra running third with a 5-2 win-loss record and Star stuck in second to the last spot at 1-5.

Still, expect both teams to bring out their best as the sister squads set aside their affinity in another highly anticipated matchup that tips off at 7 p.m.

“As history shows, the standings don’t mean anything when it comes to the Manila Clasico,” Gin Kings coach Tim Cone said on Saturday. “Both teams come and leave it all on the floor, and we’re not expecting anything less.”

The Gin Kings have won four of their last five games, overwhelming Rain or Shine, 101-87, last Sunday to move closer to securing a place in the Top Four that comes with a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.

The Hotshots, on the other hand, are just fighting for their postseason lives, eager to arrest a three-game losing streak, the latest an 85-69 beating at the hands of Alaska last week in Panabo.

“It’s a key game for both of us even though we’re in different circumstances — they are trying to climb out of the bottom four while we’re trying to stay in the top four,” Cone said. “One thing is common though: we both know we’re in for a big battle.”

Justin Brownlee leads the Gin Kings anew, but the do-it-all import has drawn significant local support from LA Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar, Sol Mercado, and rookie Scottie Thompson.

Joel Wright tries to lead the Hotshots to a win in his third game since taking over from Marqus Blakely, while RR Garcia, Marc Pingris, Mark Barroca, PJ Simon, and James Yap rally behind him.

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Alaska, which failed to build on its win against Star as it lost to San Miguel Beer, 106-103, last Wednesday, seeks to get back on track and improve its 2-5 slate as it faces cellar-dwelling Blackwater (1-6) in the curtain-raiser at 4:30 p.m. 

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos