MORE THAN GAME

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COACH Ato Agustin and the rest of his Barangay Ginebra San Miguel team were among those who avidly watched the San Mig Super Coffee-Alaska game last Sunday.

What Agustin saw reinforced what he believes should be the key when his Kings and the Super Coffee Mixers start squaring off Tuesday for their PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series at the Mall of Asia Arena.

“Pagkatapos nu’ng laro, nag-usap kami at lahat naman nag-agree, na kailangang iyung energy at intensity level namin mataas, at least matapatan man lang yung sa kabila. Semis na ito, no other way,” related Agustin.

“At sa tingin ko naman, handang-handa ang mga players namin. Maganda ang preparations namin and we’re all excited to be playing San Mig in these semifinals,” added Agustin.

San Mig coach Tim Cone was just as eager to get the best-of-seven series going.

“I am stoked, pumped-up to be playing Ginebra,” said Cone after his team notched a 90-82 victory over Talk N Text last Sunday that arranged the matchup with the Kings.

The protagonists split their two elimination round meetings with Ginebra taking the initial encounter 86-68 and San Mig equalizing with an 83-79 decision last Jan. 6.

That win would prove to be the first of five straight for the Mixers and also taught Agustin and his charges some lessons they hope to parlay into game in Tuesday’s match.

“Nu’ng last game namin pinahirapan kami ni PJ (Simon) sa third quarter at kahit sa last game nila against Talk N Text nakita namin kung gaano ka-aggressive sina (Mark) Barroca at (Marc) Pingris. Kailangan mas aggressive kami, opensa at depensa,” noted Agustin.

Each team has its upside, prompting observers to predict every game of the series to go down the wire.

Ginebra has had an extra day off after handily beating Alaska, 108-95, and advancing to the semis as early as last Saturday.

Japeth Aguilar was at his best thus far during that deciding game against the Aces, notching a career-high 29 points to go with 15 rebounds and five blocked shots. More important, he seems to have absorbed what the coaching staff was trying to drill into him, which was where to be when the opponent zones them.

San Mig superstar James Yap’s threat has been lessened by a hyper-extended right elbow, but Cone is not too worried about that since his other players have stepped up to help along Barroca and Pingris.

Joe Devance, Simon, Alex Mallari, Ian Sangalang and Rafi Reavis took turns shining in the final game against TNT, but the biggest revelation of all was another rookie in Justin Melton, who boomed in four triples for a career-high 12 points.

“He was really, really key for us, giving us a new dimension,” said Cone of the 26-year-old they picked in the second round during last November’s Draft. (NC)

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