FOR coach Ato Agustin, the real test for Barangay Ginebra begins on Wednesday when the Gin Kings go for a quick knockout against the No. 8 seed Alaska Aces in their PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal match at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Gin Kings made waves in the eliminations of the season-opening conference with a retooled lineup that won 11 of 14 games and earned the the top seeding - as well as twice-to-beat advantage - in the playoffs.
Agustin, however, was the first to warn about that the one-miss-you-die nature of the playoffs, where all the gains made by Ginebra this season could get undone by one mistake or two.
They Said It!
“Hindi kami ang mag-a-adjust. (Alaska Aces) ang mag-adjust ." - Barangay Ginebra coach Ato Agustin
Certainly, the Ginebra coach said the team can't afford to play as badly as it did in a 79-103 shellacking at the hands of Talk 'N Text at the end of its elims campaign.
“Sinasabi ko nga sa mga players ko, alam natin ang mga mistakes natin so we need to move up and we need to improve dahil kapag nagkamali ka dito (quarterfinals), delikado ka na,” said Agustin ahead of the team’s 8 p.m. match against the Aces.
The Gin Kings only need to win once to advance to the semifinals against a weary Alaska side that will be playing its third no-tomorrow game in four days, but that is easier said than done, according to the Ginebra mentor.
“Sa twice-to-beat, parang one game ahead ka lang, so first game pa lang, we need to play hard agad saka kami, kailangang gawin namin ang part namin,” he said.
“Hindi kami ang mag-a-adjust. Sila (Aces) ang mag-adjust saka kailangan ready kami.”
Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter, Ginebra’s 'Twin Towers,' will be facing Alaska’s bruising frontline duo of Sonny Thoss and Gabby Espinas for the second time this season since the Gin Kings posted a 96-89 win over the Aces on December 21.
Alaska, which is coming off a 91-94 sudden-death win over Meralco on Monday to earn the No. 8 seeding, is obviously tired and banged up - something coach Luigi Trillo did not bother to deny.
“It’s just tiring for us because we’ll be playing our third game in four days, and this (quarterfinal against Ginebra) won’t be a normal game,” said Trillo.
“One thing that can go for us is they’ve (Aces) got the feel of playing games, to us, we’re just thankful for the opportunity given to us and be able to win a close game (against Meralco)."
The youthful Alaska mentor expects the game to be physically played all throughout, though he hopes game officials will be able to make the appropriate calls.
“To me, in the playoffs, that (physicality) happens. But the physicality has to be controlled by the refs early,” said Trillo.
Alaska’s energetic small forward Calvin Abueva is a game-time decision after spraining his right ankle in the second period of Alaska’s knockout game against Meralco.
But with or without Abueva, Trillo expects the Aces to be ready to slug it out with the taller and more athletic Gin Kings.
“In the playoffs, the stakes are higher. I don’t expect the physical plays to stop,” he said. “There will be battling for positions and some elbows here and there.”