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CRUNCH TIME HERO

06:14 PM December 30, 2013

LA Tenorio is the first to admit that Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s huge success in the ongoing eliminations has a lot to do with athletic big man Japeth Aguilar’s career-best numbers this season.

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The 6-9 Aguilar is the team’s leading scorer in the season-opening Philippine Cup after averaging 19.8 points, while grabbing 9.5 rebounds and a league-best 3.8 blocks through the team’s first 10 games.

But more than the solid numbers he brings, it’s Aguilar’s newfound confidence, particularly during crunch time, that makes him so valuable for the Kings, according to Tenorio.

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Proof of that is Aguilar’s buzzer-beating three-point shot on Saturday which enabled Barangay Ginebra to squeak past first round tormentor Meralco, 83-82.

“Kaya naman kami nasa sitwasiyon na ito is because of Japeth din. Of course, tiwala din kami sa kanya till the end,” Tenorio said of his fellow Gilas Pilipinas mainstay.

Aguilar actually scored seven of the team’s last 10 points, living up to the team’s never-say-die spirit after helping the Kings crawl back from a six-point deficit with just over a minute left in the game.

He finished the game with 15 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks to avenge the team’s 87-100 first round loss to Meralco this season.

Aguilar’s sensational performance was even more pronounced when he banged in 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to help Barangay Ginebra drub sister team Petron Blaze, 97-83 during their highly-anticipated Christmas Day game before a sellout crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Aguilar’s spectacular plays earned him the Accel-PBA Player of the Week for the period of December 23-29.

He bested Rain or Shine gunner Jeff Chan, who was also instrumental this past week in the E-Painters’ run that vaulted them to solo third spot in the standings with their 7-3 record heading into the brief New Year’s break.

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The Kings currently lead the league with their near-perfect 9-1 win-loss record as they gun for one of the top two slots that guarantees a twice-to-beat edge heading into the playoffs. (RD)

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