Home Sports ‘Crushing’ exit puts Ginebra focus on future

‘Crushing’ exit puts Ginebra focus on future

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Christian Standhardinger Ginebra PBA Philippine Cup

Christian Standhardinger (with ball) has proven to be a member of the PBA elite, says Ginebra coach Tim Cone. —PBA IMAGES

Barangay Ginebra headed for the team bus on Friday night, leaving a trail of dejection so palpable that fans asking for selfies left the arena empty-handed.

Stars Japeth Aguilar and Maverick Ahanmisi zoned out as they returned to the shuttle. So did head coach Tim Cone, who kept shaking his head on his way out of the venue. Veteran LA Tenorio politely declined reporters’ request for a short interview.

It was easy to understand why.

The crowd darlings, who have swept all seven-game series duels with Meralco, hardly had answers for a determined Bolts squad in a 78-69 Game 7 loss at Fernando Poe Junior Arena in San Jose, Batangas.

“They deserved to make it to the Finals,” club cornerstone Scottie Thompson said of Meralco, his voice trailing off as he went on. “It was really meant for them.”

Thompson valiantly willed Ginebra back into the game, putting up 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. But against a resurgent Chris Banchero and a spirited outing from rookie Brandon Bates, the crowd darlings struggled.

Lowest output

Ginebra coughed up an 11-point cushion and then fell behind by as many as 16 points in the second half, unable to bring the deficit to single-digit as the game plodded along.

Friday night was also the lowest Cone’s charges have scored since a 79-66 defeat that also came at the hands of Meralco during the PBA Philippine Cup held in a bubble in Bacolor three years ago.

But to grasp how ignominious Ginebra’s fall was, one has to revisit how the race was played. The Gin Kings won the opener and then leveled the series into two games apiece. After falling to a 2-1 hole, the fancied club then regained control and moved to the doorstep of facing its mighty sister team San Miguel in the championship series, only to fumble two golden chances in the end.

“For Ginebra and our fans, it’s championship or bust,” Cone told the Inquirer the day after the stinging loss. “When we come up short, it’s crushing to all of us.”

Positives

Cone suffered his last Game 7 defeat during the 2012 Governors’ Cup finale against Rain or Shine when he was still coaching B-Meg. Friday’s loss on the road also dealt the multi-titled mentor and the Ginebra franchise a second straight semifinal exit after making two Finals appearances during the 2022-2023 PBA season.

But as disheartening as those details may be, Cone elected to look at the positives of the Ginebra bid.

“It’s hard to focus on the positives, but Christian [Standhardinger] did a great job of carrying us through the conference, showing that he is one of the elite players in the league,” he said.

“Scottie displayed his character by playing through a debilitating bulging disc in his back. And, especially, having LA [Tenorio] back in the lineup and healthy was one of the great PBA stories,” Cone added.



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“Now, if we can get a healthy Justin Brownlee back next conference, we have something to look forward to.” INQ





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