Kings, Elite in clash of unbeaten

September 21, 2018
Eugene Phelps
Eugene Phelps of Phoenix drives past Brian Faundo of Meralco in the first quarter of their game on Wednesday night. The Fuel Masters won this game.

IT’s a rare occasion that Blackwater and Barangay Ginebra – two teams with contrasting past in the league – find themselves sharing the lead in the PBA Governors’ Cup.

Eugene Phelps
Eugene Phelps

The Elite, who have not reached playoffs farther than quarterfinals, and multi-titled Gin Kings collide today in a battle for solo lead in the season-ending conference at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Elite have survived three big tests to be in the company of the Gin Kings who are also unbeaten in three outings.

In their last outing against NorthPort, the Elite shrugged off an early 18-point deficit and Batang Pier’s unrelenting pressure in the stretch to prevail, 113-111, in a victory coach Bong Ramos described as another test of the team’s character.

“It was a test of character for the team,” a visibly impressed Ramos said after the Elite included NorthPort in their list of victims that also included Talk ‘N Text and San Miguel in a winning run that is Blackwater’s best in franchise history.

The Elite and the Gin Kings meet in the 7 p.m. main offering of a double-header in what could be another acid test for the former’s seeming invincibility.

“They really want to get a third win tonight. They want to face Ginebra on Friday (today) coming off a win,” said Ramos. “It’s a character-building and test (for us).”

Henry Walker, JP Erram and Mike DiGregorio delivered as usual for Blackwater but it was John Pinto, Mac Belo and Chris Javier who made the plays that mattered most as the Elite pulled off a come-from-behind win against the Batang Pier.

The Elite are going into the game enjoying the rhythm and/or momentum, while the Gin Kings are playing for the first time since beating NorthPort, 104-98, last Sept. 5. The league took a two-week break thereafter to give way for the FIBA 2019 World Cup qualifiers.

The long layoff, coupled with injuries on seven Ginebra players, are giving coach Tim Cone some serious concerns going into the game.

“It’s been a long break, we’re battling injuries, and we’re playing a hot team in Blackwater followed by SMB,” said Cone.

“It will be a tough weekend for us to get through. Our injury list is long at this point,” added Cone, making mention of Greg Slaughter, Joe Devance, Sol Mercado, Jervy Cruz, Julian Sargent, Raymond Aguilar and Art Dela Cruz.

“Thankfully Japeth (Aguilar) and Scottie (Thompson) came back to us healthy and ready to go. We will lean on them to push us through these back-to-back games. When it gets tough, the tough gets going. We’ll see if we can live up to that,” said Cone.

San Miguel Beer, meanwhile, tries to rebound from a 103-100 loss it suffered at the hands of Blackwater last Sept. 5, as it plays Columbian Dyip in the first game at 4:30 p.m.

The Beermen first routed NLEX, 125-112, on Sept. 1, before they fell in ambush to the Elite. The Dyip, on the other hand, are still winless in five starts.