January 24, 2018, 9:35 am
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Elite test resolve of Kings

AFTER a listless showing in their last game, Ginebra coach Tim Cone can’t stress enough the need for his team to come out firing and sustain its bristling form throughout.

Whether Cone’s words have been taken to heart or fell on deaf ears would be known when the Kings collide with an upbeat Blackwater side tonight in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Elite are on a high after scoring a 92-87 win over Rain or Shine last Dec. 29, adding to Cone’s concerns, more so since his charges barely scraped past GlobalPort 104-97 last Sunday.

“We’ll need to be a lot better than what we were in our last game,” Cone said on the eve of his squad’s bid for a third win in as many games and solo leadership.

“We’re very leery of Blackwater. They beat us in a practice game before the start of the conference,” added Cone. “They have talented wings and have good size starting with (6-foot-7 Poy) Erram. They are truly one of the up-and-coming teams. They are building their team the right way.”

Surely, that is what Blackwater coach Leo Isaac is hoping for. “We are going to give our very best and try to win versus Ginebra,” he said. 

“It would be something special for us if we will be the first team to hand Ginebra its first defeat this conference.”

Not if Cone has whipped his team into the lethal form that it showed in following up its triumph over Meralco in the last Governors Cup finals by opening up the new season with an 89-78 victory over Magnolia.

Against the Batang Pier, however, the Kings trailed for majority of the game before stirring into life in the homestretch to steal the game.

Avoiding such a collapse should be on the minds of GlobalPort and Rain or Shine, which tangle in the opener.

The E-Painters were seemingly in control against the Elite and even led by as many as 10 points, only to fold up in the stretch.

“We need to step up our game. We haven’t been playing in the level that we want to,” said Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia, whose team kicked off its own bid with an 82-79 win over TNT. 

“Hopefully, we can bring more energy in the game. Our practices have been good and we hope we can bring it in the game and get us a win.”

That loss to Ginebra left GlobalPort at 0-2 and its losing streak has now been stretched to seven dating back to the last Governors Cup.

But coach Pido Jarencio is unperturbed, maintaining there are enough games left for his Batang Pier to recover and make a push for the playoffs.

“Mahaba pa ‘yan, marami pang laro,” Jarencio has said.

“We just played two playoff teams in NLEX and Ginebra. For sure, basta maging consistent lang kami. We have to play consistent basketball not just for 45 minutes, but 48 minutes.” 

What should stack the odds in favor of Rain or Shine is the fact Maverick Ahanmisi, who missed the Blackwater game due to his grandfather’s passing, and Jericho Cruz are back in harness while GlobalPort star Terrence Romeo is not yet fully healed from his knee injury.

How the likes of Stanley Pringle and Sean Anthony would range against the likes of not only Cruz and Ahanmisi but also Chris Tiu, Raymond Almazan and Beau Belga should be crucial.
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