Cone reminds Ginebra it’s not over
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - November 14, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — With Barangay Ginebra down 0-2 in the PBA Governors Cup best-of-five semifinals against Magnolia, coach Tim Cone reminded his players in the lockerroom after losing Game 2, 101-97, at the Big Dome last Monday that the fight isn’t over.

Cone was ejected in Game 2 on two technicals for continuous complaining with 9:18 left in the fourth quarter and the Hotshots on top, 81-73. Assistant coach Richard del Rosario took over the helm as Ginebra, fired up by Cone’s tossing, charged back and would’ve forced overtime if only L. A. Tenorio knocked down a triple and Justin Brownlee hit his own triple inside the last 13 seconds.

Del Rosario said Cone told the players to keep their heads up despite the setback. “This isn’t a best-of-3, it’s a best-of-5,” said Del Rosario. “We’ll be OK. Game 3 is still 50-50. Magnolia’s guards attacked Greg (Slaughter) on ballscreens and they used their quickness.”

Game 3 is set at the Smart Araneta Coliseum tonight. Another win by Magnolia will send the Hotshots to the best-of-seven finals against the winner of the other semifinal series between Meralco and Alaska. It will also extinguish Ginebra’s hopes of capturing three straight Governors Cup titles under Cone and with Brownlee. If Ginebra survives tonight, Game 4 will be at the Ynares Center, Antipolo, on Friday.

Tenorio, who scored 15 points in Game 2, said he’s not ruffled by the physicality of the series. His matchup against Magnolia’s Mark Barroca has been fierce. “We expected that,” he said. “We can match up sa physicality nila. We just have to be ready and get one game.”

Bouncing back from 0-2 to win a best-of-five series has been done by Ginebra before. In the 2010 Philippine Cup quarterfinals, Ginebra lost the first two games, 107-92 and 106-105 to TNT but recovered to sweep the next three encounters to clinch, 3-2. Game 4 of the series was tumultuous as TNT walked out with Ginebra ahead, 27-20, in the first quarter and lost by forfeit. Ginebra took Game 3, 102-97 and Game 5, 113-100.

In PBA historical trending, a team that draws first blood in a best-of-five tie has a 69 percent probability of clinching. The Purefoods franchise has won 10 of 14 best-of-five series after taking Game 1 but it has lost the last two with a 1-0 edge. In six conferences under coach Chito Victolero, Magnolia has made it to five semifinals, missing out only in the last Commissioner’s Cup. Magnolia has advanced to the finals only once under Victolero, losing to San Miguel Beer in the last Philippine Cup.

Victolero said even if Magnolia is a win away from closing out, he still considers Ginebra the favorite. “Every game, all out kami,” he said. “Mindset namin, we’re the underdog so we need to double our effort and work hard on both ends.” Victolero said the Hotshots aren’t backing down from the high level of physicality. “As long as within the rules, OK naman yung physical game with both teams and even in the other semifinal series, halos ganoon din,” he said.

Victolero declined to comment on Magnolia’s defensive schemes that tilted the balance last Monday as it may reveal what he has in mind for Game 3. It seemed like the Hotshots settled into a zone whenever Ginebra brought the ball within 10 feet of the basket, collapsing in the restricted area to prevent Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar and Brownlee from attacking the interior. What was clear was Magnolia’s rule of packing the paint and clogging the lane to neutralize Ginebra’s advantage in size. Del Rosario, however, said in Game 2, Magnolia didn’t zone. The series has turned out to be a tactical chess-like duel as Victolero matches wits with the PBA’s winningest coach ever.

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