MANILA, Philippines – Despite earning only one win in his team’s first 3 games of the PBA Governors’ Cup, new Barangay Ginebra head coach Frankie Lim is happy with the effort being given by his players as they fight through injuries to key guys and the lack of an interior presence.
Talking to the media after Ginebra’s 105-98 victory over the KIA Carnival on Wednesday, May 13, Lim said: “Again, we’re just finding ways to get a win and, kahit wala kaming malaki, makikita mo naman yung effort nung players namin.”
(Even if we don’t have a big, you can see the effort of our players.)
The team’s second-year starting center, 7-footer Greg Slaughter, is being held back by an ankle injury he suffered after stepping on the foot of teammate Dorian Pena during practice. The former Ateneo Blue Eagle standout is expected to be out two more weeks.
Ginebra’s second-tallest player Japeth Aguilar is currently “day-to-day” according to Lim as he battles a hamstring injury.
“Mahirap pag wala kang malaki eh (it’s hard when you don’t have a big),” said Lim, who’s been forced play 37-year-old Dorian Pena and 6-foot-5 Rodney Brondial against bigger and more athletic imports. “We’re struggling inside, especially when we play teams who have very tall imports. Medyo nag stru-struggle kami (we’re struggling). We’re just trying to find ways to hold our own inside on defense.”
That defense held its own when KIA 7-foot import Hamady N’Diaye was limited to just 19 points on Wednesday. Scoring that much is actually better than what most can produce in the PBA. But given N’Diaye’s height advantage over his undersized defenders, limiting him to below 20 points is a plus for Ginebra.
“Great effort duon sa players ko (my players gave great effort). Guys like [Rodney] Brondial, of course my import, si Orlando [Johnson], and guys like Mark [Caguioa] stepped up and Solomon Mercado. I’m just happy to have my first – our first – win,” said Lim, who later added:
“They give their all and hindi mo matawaran eh. I’m very happy with the kind of effort they’re giving in the game.”
Their first win took place in front of an exuberant crowd at the Cuneta Astrodome that was both pro-Ginebra and pro-Manny Pacquiao. The 8-division boxing champion made his return to the Philippines on Wednesday and dropped by his Carnival’s second contest of the conference.
Pacquiao, who arrived late in the second quarter and was welcomed by thousands of fans, is both a player and coach for KIA.
Did his presence inspire the opponents to perform better?
“No,” said Lim. “We were just after our first win regardless sino kalaban namin duon (regardless of whom we were facing).”
“I think it’s just the feeling of making ourselves feel good, because these guys have been working so hard in my practices, and I just want them to be rewarded with a win.”
Benching Tenorio for Monfort, Urbiztondo
Lim has also shown that he’s not afraid to make the tough decisions in other to put his club in the best position to pick-up wins. An example of which took place in the fourth period, when the former NCAA champion coach benched national team point guard LA Tenorio for Eman Monfort and Josh Urbiztondo.
Urbiztondo, who finished with 11 points, hit a clutch layup with under a minute to go that spearheaded Ginebra’s game-winning run.
According to Lim, playing the veteran point guard over the Gilas playmaker was a defensive adjustment.
“Because when Josh came off the bench, he did a pretty good job on LA Revilla,” said Lim. Revilla scored 16 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, where KIA at one point led by 4.
“I thought of putting in Eman first, then put back Josh at the end.”
Lim also played his strict hand with Asian import Sanchir Tungalag, who was benched in his team’s loss to Talk ’N Text last Sunday, May 10, but played limited minutes against the Carnival and scored 8 points.
“I just want to make things clear with him: he has to play defense with us and he cannot be lost all the time,” Lim said.
Lim also said the return of Slaughter and Aguilar will benefit the team, especially their import Johnson, who has already scored 50, 46, and 47 points, respectively, in his first 3 games.
“Well, pag dating nila Slaughter tsaka ni Japeth (when Slaughter and Japeth return), at least we’re going to have inside presence,” said Lim. “They have to play defense on Greg, and I think it will become easier for Orlando to make his shots.”