After two disappointing conferences in the 2014 PBA season despite having arguably the most talented line-up in the league, Barangay Ginebra looks to bounce back in the Governor’s Cup to prove doubters wrong. They failed to get past eventual champion SanMig Coffee Mixers in the semi-finals of the Philippine Cup, losing in a one-sided Game 7. They got eliminated early in the Commissioner’s Cup courtesy of the Talk N’ Text Tropang Texters. Now, Ginebra looks to put the past behind them as they start anew under new head coach Jeffrey Cariaso.
With their talented core left intact, the league’s crowd darlings are expected to remain a championship contender this conference.
Ginebra made no roster changes after their early exit in the Commissioner’s Cup. Lead by their Twin Towers consisting of Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter, Ginebra boasts a young but very talented core with only 6 players aged above 30 (Billy Mamaril, Bryan Faundo, Josh Urbiztondo, Mark Caguioa, Jayjay Helterbrand and Jay-R Reyes).
Rookie Greg Slaughter is continuing to adapt to playing in the pros while posting double-doubles every game and was even a prime Best Player of the Conference contender in the Philippine Cup, while Japeth continues to evolve and improve his wide range of skills. In addition, the tandem of high flying Chris Ellis and 3 point specialist Mac Baracael have been contributing more than expected for to the team. Plus, James Forrester’s true potential should come out if given the chance.
The Fast and Furious duo of Jayjay Helterbrand and Mark Caguioa are at the twilight of their careers but they are still contributing with their veteran leadership and the occasional big game. Whether or not they are ready to officially pass the torch to their younger teammates, they are expected to lead a team full of up and coming stars.
LA Tenorio, the team’s star point guard is also expected to bounce back from a sub-par performance during the last two conferences after having a great season where he was a runner-up for the MVP award.
Constant coaching staff changes + New system
Ginebra technically had two head coaching changes in the past two conferences. After a meltdown in the semi-finals after dominating the elimination round, Ato Agustin was sidelined/replaced by “ active assistant coach “ Juno Sauler. Now the team is left at the hands of former SanMig Coffee Mixers Assistant Coach Jeffrey Cariaso.
Due to incessant coaching change, not having a uniform system, this team continues to fail despite having a talented and deep lineup. However, hiring Jeffrey Cariaso in a long term basis, with full control of the team, will definitely help.
Ginebra’s reinforcement Zaccheus Mason is a 6-5, 238 lbs. combo forward from University of Tennessee in Chattanooga where he dominated in his senior year, posting numbers of 15.2 points, 9.7 rebounds and three blocks. He was also named the Southern Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.
In his first overseas stint, Mason is expected to beef up the already strong frontcourt of the Kings. The 23-year-old Ginebra reinforcement is a big defensive presence in the post, can grab rebounds and protect the rim. He also has a nice touch from beyond the arc and should provide the hustle and energy that the team needs. In an intense tune-up game last May 15, Mason scored 22 points against a tough Beermen frontline of Fajardo, Krame and Santos.
Japeth Aguilar remains to be the X-Factor for this team. He was Ginebra’s top scorer during the Philippine Cup where he averaged 18.8 points and close to 10 rebounds. With him leading the way, Ginebra finished as the top seed with an 11-3 win-loss record. In their semis match-up against San Mig Coffee, the 6-foot-9 high flyer’s scoring average dropped from 18.8 points to 10.0 a game while his field goal percentage went down from 55.3 percent to just 38.2 percent.
Aguilar’s struggles continued in the midseason conference where he only averaged 9.0 and 7.0 rebounds in 24 minutes of play per game. With their star forward struggling, Ginebra finished the elimination round with a 3-6 win-loss record and was eliminated by a streaking Talk N’ Text during their quarterfinals match.
Now the team is counting on Aguilar to regain his lethal form during the Philippine Cup if they want a chance to win the Governor’s Cup and end Barangay Ginebra’s 6-year title drought.
If Ginebra quickly learns the triangle system under Coach Jeff Cariaso, they’ll be in the middle of the pack when the playoffs come around. A 4th or 5th seed should be in the cards for the team, with a potential semis match-up against powerhouse teams like Rain or Shine, Talk N’ Text and San Mig Coffee.
Barangay Ginebra’s opening match is against GlobalPort Batang Pier. This will be Ginebra’s first real test as they try to incorporate their new system under Coach Jeffrey Cariaso.
Keys to the Game
Control the Paint
Ginebra’s tall line-up easily has the advantage against Globalport. Slaughter and company should be able to give Ginebra extra possessions by grabbing offensive rebounds. Their length will also deny Globalport’s slashers easy access to the rim.
Connect from Beyond The Arc
Ginebra averaged 24.1 3PTA a game last conference, hitting only 28.1 percent of them (4th-worst in the league). It would be a big boost if they could improve their 3PT% this conference.
Even though there are a lot of teams worse than Ginebra in terms of turnovers per game, their unforced errors during crucial parts of the match cost them much needed games. They should try to protect the ball more efficiently especially during crunch time.
Zaccheus Mason vs Leroy Hickerson
I think this first game will determine the performance of Mason throughout his stay in the league. The youngest import in the conference will go up against a much more experienced Leroy Hickerson, who’s having his third stint in the Philippines having played for Air21 and Barako Bull in the past. Mason will have to rely on his athleticism and speed to try and outplay Hickerson.
This will be a game where both imports will showcase their talents. The result of the game will depend on the production of the locals. If Ginebra will come out with their dominating Philippine Cup form, then this game is pretty much over.