The numbers will show it, the players and coaches know it. The tide is definitely turning when you take a good look at the PBA's landscape. New blood is starting to take over, and some worry that the people’s Kings might be left out.
“The rookie performances are a reality" says three-time champion head coach Siot Tanquincen just before they took the floor at Victorias City last Saturday. This after Paul Lee registered 21 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists against them on opening day. Mac Baracael of the Alaska Acas also had an impressive debut with 20 points the following week before Barako Bulls’ Dylan Ababou made it three in a row by exploding for 20 against the crowd darlings in his very first PBA game.
“While it’s good to have our veterans still play effective basketball, there is a need for our young guns to step up to the plate" added Tanquincen. “We are a team in transition, we just need to look for the right balance: to give our vets their minutes, while giving the young ones some opportunities on the floor to try to improve as we go along. It’s the only way for us to get better."
Coach Siot started sophomores Rob Labagala and John Wilson together with 2007 (Air 21) 4th overall pick JC Intal for that road game against Powerade. “We just need to bite the bullet by playing the young ones, we need to take the bumps, there will be rough roads ahead." Wilson finally scored from the field for the first time this season, caught a couple of nifty passes for layups but ended up with just those four points for the contest. Labagala, who was coming off a 12-point performance, ended up with just two while Intal went for 1/11 from the field and registered only five points.
“Barangay Ginebra hasn’t had a high pick in so many years. We are always in the middle of the pack, it’s pretty tough to get impact players from there" says Coach Tanquincen. He explains that it shouldn’t be a knock on their younger guys, just a realization that if they got a chance to pick a guy like Jvee Casio, it would’ve been a totally different story. They just need to go through this process as a team while in the elimination round, and hope that the Barangay Ginebra mystique kicks in come playoff time, especially if they end up as one of the lower seeds.
Mark Caguioa also realizes all of this. The 2001 Rookie of the year likes the new talent coming in and looking to make a name for themselves at their expense. “Gusto ko yun tapang nila," as he is reminded of how it was when he came into the league. “But for now, there is a conscious effort on my part to get everybody on my team involved. We need the young guys to step up and for everybody to contribute and fill in their respective roles." But MC47 also warned, “I also like the challenge."
Marcio Lassiter became the fourth rookie in a row to explode against the Gin Kings. The fourth overall pick recorded a young career-best double-double of 21-12 that went along with four assists and three steals as the Tigers built a five-point lead with less than a minute to go.
“I will take over if and when my team needs me to" is what the Spark told me before the contest. With no more timeouts and nobody having scored in double figures for Ginebra at that point, Coach Siot left five veterans on the floor: Caguioa, Helterbrand, De Ocampo, Tubid and Willie Wilson (9pts, 6rebs, 3 asts). MC47 found Enrico Villanueva to bring them to within three points. After a couple of missed Tiger free throws, the Fast found the Furious who struck for another two-pointer on a jump hook and all of a sudden, we had a one-point game with just 14 seconds to go.
Two more missed Powerade FTs set up the epic last push. Caguioa was well covered on the left wing, got the rock over to JJ Helterbrand at the top of the key. The Fast took it strong to the hole. Everybody in Negros Occidental held their breath as the layup bounced out… then from out of nowhere, the Furious came flying in for a stickback with just 1.6 seconds to go. Gary David’s desperation heave would not even draw iron as the entire building erupted in joy at the final buzzer with the mix of Kings sprawled out celebrating on the floor. The young ones, the veterans and even their head coach all piled up on top of each other with their faithful storming the floor as they picked up their second win in what they believe would be a struggle of a tournament for them.
Siot Tanquincen said before the game, “As much as we need to look at the bigger picture (by developing the young guns), we owe it to the Barangay Ginebra faithful to find ways to win."
At 2-2 in this 14-game elimination round, Ginebra takes on Shopinas on Wednesday before facing off against Meralco and the defending champion Tropang Texters in the first week of November. - OMG, GMA News