Ginebra finds timely heroes in Aguilar, Cruz in ending 3-game skid

MANILA, Philippines – Raymond Aguilar and Jervy Cruz turned from role players to surprise heroes as Barangay Ginebra hacked out a 100-96 win over the almighty San Miguel Beermen Sunday, January 28, to end a 3-game slump.

Without Greg Slaughter and Joe Devance, who both were nursing injuries, the Gin Kings were undoubtedly the underdog heading into the game, especially since the Beermen were undefeated and were riding the high of a 5-game winning streak.

Fortunately for Ginebra, Aguilar and Cruz provided the much-needed support head coach Tim Cone had asked for after the Gin Kings crashed to their 3rd straight loss against Phoenix on Friday, January 26.

LA Tenorio, who had 23 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds, and Japeth Aguilar, who also turned in 23 markers on top of 9 boards, carried the cudgels for Ginebra but it was Aguilar’s 16 points and 2 rebounds and Cruz’s 17 points and 7 boards that proved the difference against the Beermen.

Cone’s gamble of giving Aguilar ample of playing time paid off in Ginebra’s crucial second half assault as the 6-foot-5 big man scored 9 points in a 12-3 run bridging the last two quarters that gave the Gin Kings their biggest lead of the game, 80-66, an enough cushion to withstand San Miguel’s late comeback.

“Can't talk enough about Raymond Aguilar, the other Aguilar, for once. He was just phenomenal. He guarded June Mar all game long. We didn't want to put Japeth on June Mar because we didn't want Japeth to get in foul trouble. So that chore went to Raymond,” said Cone.

“And then he hit big shots, he made big plays on his own. It was amazing, he played out of his mind tonight and I can't thank him enough at this point because we really needed a big game from somebody.”

For Aguilar, who was two points short of tying his career-high, it was all about contributing when his name gets called.

Kailangan talaga namin 'tong panalo na 'to para di kami bumaba sa standings. Buti ‘yung effort namin, ‘yung defense, tsaka pumapasok ‘yung tira namin, so swerte,” said Aguilar.

(We needed this win so we will not go down in the standings. Luckily, we showed a lot of effort and tightened on defense and our shots were falling.)

Cruz, meanwhile, was pivotal in keeping Ginebra afloat in the payoff period. He scored 10 of the team’s 25th quarter points. The former UAAP MVP also chose the perfect time to step up big as he submitted his best game of the season.

Trabaho lang kami kasi wala si Greg, wala si Joe, so kailangan magstep-up kami kasi 3 games na kaming talo eh. So alam mo ‘yun, ang sakit na sa loob na matalo pa ulit lalo San Miguel pa,” said Cruz.

(We just work hard since we are without Greg and Joe and we have to step up after losing 3 games. It would be painful to lose again, especially to San Miguel.)

Aguilar, Cruz and the rest of the Gin Kings look to get a winning streak going as they face the reeling NLEX Road Warriors, who are coming off a 4-game skid, on February 3 at the Cuneta Astrodome. –

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.