Wednesday, July 24

Catching whiff of blood in water, Kings hunt for playoff protection

Ginebra’s Jamie Malonzo (left) has been filling in well for the team’s absent stars. —AUGUST DELA CRUZ

A playoff bonus is up for the taking for Barangay Ginebra this Wednesday, and coach Tim Cone is firm that the reigning Governors’ Cup champions are going to take the chance by the throat.

“These guys are going to be ready,” Cone said of his charges, who play 2-8 (win-loss) Terrafirma in the 5:45 p.m. clash at Ynares Center in Antipolo City. “They can smell the blood in the water and I think they’re ready to go [and] get that Top 4.”

With two games to spare, the Gin Kings can lay claim to twice-to-beat protection by just winning one, and between the Dyip and league-leading TNT, it’s the perennial whipping boys that are shaping up as easy prey.

Despite injuries to Japeth Aguilar and LA Tenorio, the Gin Kings have proven to be a formidable bunch.

Jamie Malonzo is sustaining his splendid play, Jeremiah Gray has been stepping up to the plate, while Christian Standhardinger is back to punching in double-doubles as he did when he was NorthPort’s brightest star.

“After we got blown away by Magnolia, we were not sure where we were going to be at this point. But the guys have responded well. Just battle. They have battled,” said Cone.

Complicated race

“As [we’ve said] we just keep on trucking, no matter what’s going on, we just move along and that’s what we’ve done,” he added. “Great character so far in this team. And I think it is a championship character they’ve developed from the last conference and they’re trying to bring that to this conference.”

Meanwhile, Magnolia is looking to give itself a chance in that complicated race for playoff protection when it ends its elimination phase against Blackwater in the 3:00 p.m. contest.

The easier part is to beat the already eliminated Bossing (1-9). The harder thing for the Hotshots (6-4) is that they need teams in the upper half of the standings to start losing.

“We no longer control what will happen [beyond] our game,” said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero. “What we can control is our game, so we have to take care of business.”

“We just have to prepare hard for the playoffs—practice hard and have the right mindset. The most important thing here is that we have a chance to go forward,” he added.

After Wednesday’s doubleheader, the Philippine Basketball Association caravan heads for Passi City in Iloilo province for its first All-Star weekend in two years.

The last time the league staged the mid-season event was in Calasiao, Pangasinan province.

This year’s revelries will kick off on March 9 and feature an Obstacle Challenge, a Three-Point Shootout, Slam Dunk Contest and a Rookies-Sophomores-Juniors clash. The All-Star Game is scheduled for Sunday at City of Passi Arena. INQ

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