MANILA, Philippines – Tim Cone is the first one to admit that he nearly waved the white flag.
Cone thought about playing a semifinals-extending Game 4 before Barangay Ginebra fought back from 18 points against San Miguel to complete an 87-85 win and reach the finals of PBA Governors’ Cup on Wednesday, March 29.
The comeback made the Gin Kings the first team in PBA history to sweep the Beermen in a best-of-five series – an idea that Cone almost abandoned.
“I was ready to give up on that one at various times of the game. But the players would not quit,” Cone said.
“Every timeout, I was looking in their eyes, I was looking at their body language and see if they’re ready to pack it in and go fight on Friday. But I just never saw the evidence so we just stayed with them.”
Cone said he initially wanted to sub out his starters to rest them for Game 4 when San Miguel surged ahead, leading by as many as 18 points in the third quarter.
The Beermen were still up 82-75 with four minutes left only to witness Ginebra unleash the win-clinching 12-3 tear capped by a Christian Standhardinger game-winner.
Standhardinger scored the first 5 points of that run to pull the Gin Kings within 80-82 before Jeremiah Gray and Justin Brownlee sank a triple and a two-pointer in succession for an 85-82 lead.
A Marcio Lassiter trey tied the game for San Miguel, but Ginebra got the last laugh as Brownlee found Standhardinger underneath the basket for the game-winner with four ticks left.
The Gin Kings outscored the Beermen 29-15 overall in the fourth period.
“From a coaching standpoint, I was just wondering, do I pull our guys out and live to fight another day or do we keep going at it? That was my battle throughout the whole third and fourth quarter,” Cone said.
“But they just kept showing a will. I was looking for them to stop. I was looking for them to kind of like give up a little bit and they never did that. So I stayed with them.”
Finishing the series earlier, though, can be a double-edged sword.
With the finals starting on April 9, Cone is worried Ginebra will lose the momentum it built throughout the playoffs due to the long break.
On the other hand, the 10-day layoff gives the Gin Kings an opportunity to welcome back injured forward Japeth Aguilar into the lineup.
“Not that we wanted to go another game or two, we’ll take this rather than the alternative than having to go to a Game 4 or Game 5. But it does have its own problems,” Cone said.
“Those are the things that we have to overcome in the next 10, 11 days, make sure our guys stay sharp. We’re not going to take any extended vacation or breaks. Work every day.” – Rappler.com
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