By Jonas Terrado
(Quezon Convention Center, Lucena City)
7 p.m. – Ginebra vs Meralco
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Meralco look to put words into action tonight when they begin their best-of-seven title rematch in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City.
Tipoff is at 7 p.m. with Ginebra seeking a second straight crown in the season-ending conference and Meralco eyeing payback for losing last year’s six-game series that ended with a Justin Brownlee buzzer-beating three.
Coaches Tim Cone of Ginebra and Norman Black of Meralco – meeting for just the fourth time in the finals despite establishing great careers since the 1980s – has described the finals duel as size against versatility.
“I think that Meralco is probably the most balanced team out there, they show you a whole bunch of different looks,” Cone said. “I think it’s going to be hard for us to dictate match-ups with them because they have a lot of versatility, we’re going back and forth to try to match up with each other.”
Cone’s major concern is how to defend Meralco import Allen Durham, whose series of near triple-doubles performances and ability to play both inside and outside have resulted in a second-straight finals berth for his team.
Besides Durham, the Bolts have a talented local crew led by Jared Dillinger, who failed to suit up in last year’s finals duel because of a torn hamstring. Other key players are Chris Newsome, Baser Amer, Cliff Hodge, Mike Tolomia, Garvo Lanete and Ranidel de Ocampo.
Black, aiming to give Meralco its first title since joining the PBA in 2010, braces for trouble particularly in the shaded lane with Ginebra parading 7-foot Greg Slaughter and 6-foot-10 Japeth Aguilar.
There’s also 6-foot-7 Joe Devance and 6-foot-5 Brownlee who can are capable of playing in the perimeter, which would pose trouble for the smaller wingmen of Meralco. The Gin Kings also got an impressive rebounder in Scottie Thompson despite being 6-foot-1 and LA Tenorio meticulously running the team’s schemes on both sides of the court.
“They are the biggest team in the league, this conference they can just overpower people,” Black said. “They constantly pound the ball inside and that will create problems for us. But we have versatility defensively, we can go big, we can go small, but we cannot be as big as them.
“The important thing is to control the rebounds, if we get stops we have to make sure they won’t get second chance points, that will give us a chance to run.”
Dillinger and Devance have spent the days leading up to the finals exchanging banters on social media and both their coaches would want to see them back up their words.
“I told JD (Dillinger) that no matter what you say, you still got to go out and play. What’s important is how you play and not what you say,” Black stressed.