BARANGAY Ginebra put a fitting ending to a memorable opening of the PBA's 39th season on Sunday, flaunting the potential of a deep, talent-laden lineup in an 86-69 victory over San Mig Coffee before a full-packed crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Labelled as a top favorite in the 2014 PLDT MyDSL Philippine Cup following an offseason buildup that saw the arrival of rookies Greg Slaughter and James Forrester as well as Eman Monfort and Jay-R Reyes, Ginebra lived up to its billing by routing a San Mig side that was coming off a title run in the last Governors Cup.
Japeth Aguilar, finally able to play his favorite four spot with the arrival of Slaughter, and LA Tenorio stood out as usual for the Gin Kings, who ironically got the biggest spark of all from a player who almost got lost in the shuffle in the midst of a major rebuilding in the offseason.
His name? Dylan Ababou.
The former University of Santo Tomas star, who almost got traded to Barako Bull when Ginebra acquired the fourth pick in the rookie draft which it used to acquire James Forrester, came off the bench to score 16 points behind a 3-for-6 clip from beyond the arc.
Ababou made his mark in the third quarter, firing seven points in a momentum-swinging 22-7 Ginebra run that turned a 12-point deficit into a 58-55 lead going into the final period.
"I told them during halftime, huwag tayo dapat magmadali," said Ginebra coach Ato Agustin. "Kasi we were forcing a lot of shots and not sprinting back on defense."
"But we made some adjustments and the guys worked hard and played hard," he added.
Enjoying a deeper bench this season, Agustin utilized nine players during the first three-and-a-half quarters, before sending his shock troopers when the game was already beyond doubt.
Aguilar led the Gin Kings’ second-half charge to finish with 18 points, eight rebounds and five blocks, drawing energy from a huge season-opening crowd of more than 20,000 inside the Big Dome.
Tenorio finished with a double-double of 17 points and 10 boards, while this year’s top rookie pick Slaughter gave a good account of himself after finishing with 10 points and 13 boards in his PBA debut.
San Mig faded in the second half after scoring just 27 points in the last two quarters.
Mark Barroca led the Mixers with 14 points, while resident gunner James Yap carried over his shooting slump from last season after finishing with just eight points on 4-of-14 shooting from the field.
Sangalang had eight points in his PBA debut.
Ginebra 86 – Aguilar 18, Tenorio 17, Ababou 16, Slaughter 10, Reyes 10, Ellis 7, Helterbrand 5, Caguioa 2, Monfort 1, Baracael 0, Urbiztondo 0, Forrester 0, Faundo 0.
San Mig 69 – Barroca 14, Acuna 11, Sangalang 8, Yap 8, Pingris 7, Reavis 7, Melton 5, De Ocampo 4, Mallari 4, Holstein 1, Cawaling 0.
Quarters: 20-21; 34-42; 58-55; 86-69