Posted by: sportsandbeans | March 29, 2007

The Depth of Ginebra

by Milo

There’s more to Ginebra than just the Too Fast, Too Furious Tandem of Jayjay Helterbrand and Mark Caguioa.

When coach Chot Reyes called up the Caguioa-Helterbrand tandem to participate in the national team, many pundits said that Ginebra will have a tough time defending their crown in the Fiesta Conference.  After all, the Ginebra Gin Kings are fueled by this run-and-gun sparkplug tandem, that many call them the “Heart and Soul” of this “never-say-die” team.  There is virtually no one in the league can match the speed and agility of these two Ginebra guards when they kickstart the entire offensive machine of the team.

Their credentials speak for themselves.  Helterbrand was the PBA 2006-07 Philippine Cup Finals MVP, 2005 MVP Sultan Cup in Brunei, 2-time PBA Mythical Five member, 2001 Most Improved Player, 2005 PBA All-Star game MVP, 2002 Skills Challenge Winner & the recently concluded 2007 PBA Philippine Cup Finals MVP.  Caguioa on the other hand was the 2001 PBA Rookie of the Year, 2001 PBA Mr. Quality Minutes, 2005 PBA Mythical Second Team, 2006 PBA Mythical Second Team, PBA 2006-07 Philippine Cup Best Player of the Conference, 2006 PBA Scoring Champion, and 7-time PBA All Star.

And these pundits may have proven their point when the conference started.  The Gin Kings dropped the ball to the Alaska Aces, 99-98.  But the Aces needed a Willie Miller jumper to drill the win for the Aces.  The Kings still fought hard and stood ground even without their leading scorer in Caguioa and playmaker Helterbrand.

Since that loss, they never looked back and now play among the top teams in the standings with a 4-1 record.  They got their first taste of victory against the Welcoat Dragons, 99-97.  They tamed the Red Bull Barakos, 111-105 in their second win.  They downed the Coca-Cola Tigers and San Miguel Beermen soon thereafter 101-97 and 102-84 respectively.

Critics may point out that three out of the four games were indeed very close ones and could’ve gone either way.  However, looking deeper in these games, one would notice that there were different “stars” in each game that the Gin Kings has played.

Though one constant factor is their prolific scorer embodied in their import, Rod Nealy, averaging at least 26 points in all their four wins, it was their balanced offense, their different “stars” that made it very difficult for their opponents to focus and clamp down on defense on a singular Gin King.

In their first win, Ronald Tubid and Sunday Salvacion starred for the Kings with 18 and 14 points respectively.  Veteran Johnny Abarrientos also did his share in the point guard spot by filling up the stat sheet with 9 assists, 7 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals.

It rained threes in their second win as Salvacion finished with 20 points wih 4 triples. Tubid also scored 20, while Rudy Hatfield and Abarrientos added 17 and 12 each.

The Coca-Cola Tigers managed to lock down Tubid in the third game, but Abarrientos, Salvacion and Mark Macapagal picked up the slack with 16, 14 and 13 points each respectively.  Abarrientos also logged in 5 steals, 4 rebounds and 4 steals, echoing memories of his “Flying A” and 1996 PBA MVP days.

Their blowout win against the San Miguel Beermen was a statement game especially since this team was the runner-up in the recently concluded Philippine Cup.  Yes, we can still win without our top scorer Caguioa and playmaker Helterbrand, and beat you down real good – this win said.  Hatfield contributed 22 points, while Tubid added 14.

Anyone can explode at any given time; a warning signal as red as their team jerseys, but as hidden as a land mine – it’s too late once you step on the hardcourt with them.

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