MANILA, Philippines – Barangay Ginebra bought Japeth Aguilar more time for his keenly awaited return as it leveled the PBA Govenors’ Cup finals at 1-1 after a 99-93 win over Meralco on Friday, April 8.
With the victory, the best-of-seven series is guaranteed to last at least until Easter Sunday or April 17, giving Aguilar a slightly larger window to come back after missing their past five games due to a calf injury.
“[H]e gets a little bit more time, and hopefully, he’ll be available for those crucial games,” said Gin Kings head coach Tim Cone.
Before his injury, Aguilar had been one of the more dominant Ginebra players as he averaged 23.6 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in their quarterfinals conquest of twice-to-beat TNT.
To add to that, Aguilar won Finals MVP the last time the Gin Kings and the Bolts faced off for the Governors’ Cup title two years ago.
“If he can get on the floor and if he feels good, he is a huge, huge impact player. He changes the way we defend. He gives us versatility in terms of what we can do offensively,” Cone said.
An encouraging sign for Ginebra is the scene of Aguilar finally suiting up and joining the team in the shootaround after being in street clothes in Game 1.
The high-flying big man said he is aching to finally see action and make life easier for Christian Standhardinger and Justin Brownlee, who share the responsibility of protecting the paint for Ginebra since Aguilar got hurt.
“If ever I get to play, I’m going to be all out. I will not think about it much because the more you think about it, bad things happen,” Aguilar said in a mix of Filipino and English.
“Just trying to do the best I can to give the other players a slight break.”
Aguilar is expected to play limited minutes in Game 3 on Sunday, but if the pain from his injury persists, the more feasible timeframe for his return is in Game 4 on Wednesday, April 13.
“He will come to the game. We’ll stretch him out. We’ll test out a few things and then if he passes that test, then he’ll go warm up,” Cone said.
“If he feels good in the warmup, then we’ll look to see if we can get him on the court at least for a few minutes.” – Rappler.com