MANILA, Philippines - When the ball came out of Japeth Aguilar's hands in the dying seconds of Wednesday's game against NLEX, Barangay Ginebra teammate Emman Monfort had faith.
He had seen Aguilar hit several game-winning 3-pointers in the past, and Monfort had just one thought when the ball passed through the hoop, giving the Gin Kings a 110-107 lead with 1.7 left to play.
“Again, Japeth, again.”
That margin ended up being the final score, earning Ginebra the eighth and final spot in the Governors’ Cup playoffs, and a meeting against the top-seeded Alaska Aces.
Ginebra needed the stars to align perfectly to make the playoffs. They needed to beat Barako Bull Energy Cola on June 17, then have KIA defeat Meralco Bolts by 16 points or less. Then they had to beat NLEX. And in the end, it all came to fruition.
“It’s new life for us,” the 5-foot-6 guard Monfort tells Rappler of how the team overcame a double-digit deficit to win. “God has been very good to us. We just made sure that after KIA won, destiny should be in our hands.
“We were down ten and we didn’t want to lose. We want to win for the fans, for the management, for the coaching staff. Just get a ‘W’ no matter what it takes."
Monfort played sparingly throughout the season’s final conference, but came up big in Ginebra’s final two games. Against Barako , Monfort turned in 12 points, 4 assists and 8 rebounds in 31 minutes. Then on Wednesday, Monfort made the most of his 17 minutes on the court, scoring 11 points and grabbing 4 rebounds.
Starting point guard and Gilas veteran LA Tenorio was also a hero against NLEX, contributing 21 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds.
Monfort says his play of late has nothing to do with trying to prove a point.
“It’s me and who I am. I’m a persistent person and I grab every opportunity that I get. I never complain about playing time, just work my butt off in practice and make sure that when my time comes, I’m ready.
Ginebra’s (5-6) game against the Philippine Cup runners-up Alaska (8-3) at 7 pm on Friday, June 26 at Smart Araneta Coliseum is another do-or-die situation for the Never Say Die crew. Alaska has a twice-to-beat advantage in their quarterfinal matchup, and a loss means the end of Ginebra’s season.
“We may not be the best team but we will make a way to fight. We will fight to win,” said Monfort.
Monfort knows there is no point in looking past Friday. They just have to be the best team they possibly can be in their next game.
“[Alaska is] the best team in this conference. Everyone can score, they’ve got energy, they’ve got experience. We just made the point that we’re just look at ourselves fist, what we need to fix as a team to be efficient,” said Monfort.
“If we win that we will think about the next game.” - Rappler.com