IT is not easy defeating Barangay Ginebra.
One, it has a crowd cruel enough to shout down a rival throng to its knees in any arena of battle.
Two, the team teems with championship talents, foremost among them are Twin Towers Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar.
Standing almost 7-foot-1, Slaughter can easily slaughter anyone assigned to him like a hungry lion in a den when given a prey to feast on.
Together with the 6-foot-9 Aguilar, Slaughter and his partner are just as deadly as today’s dreaded riders in tandem out to inflict havoc on a foe crossing their paths.
And three, Barangay Ginebra boasts of Tim Cone, the league’s celebrated coach of all time if only because he is the winningest of them all.
Isn’t he also the only two-time Grand Slam champion (Alaska in 1996 and San Mig Coffee in 2015)?
That is why before Blackwater Elite faced Ginebra on Friday, the odds were heavily stacked in favor of the Gin Kings.
But Ginebra fans got their initial scare when the unfancied Elite tied first quarter scoring at 19-all on a tingling triple at the buzzer. Next, Leo Isaac’s boys built a 41-33 halftime bulge.
Blackwater, behind its own version of a man mountain in JP Erram, went on to post 12-point margins before settling for a 64-61 third-quarter edge.
Erram, towering himself to almost 7 feet, stunned one and all with his sudden resurgence, displaying agility and a much-improved basketball IQ.
He blended well with the back-to-form Mac Belo and the ever reliable Allein Maliksi, combining for 61 points among them in dealing Ginebra its worst defeat in recent memory.
Erram and Belo had 22 points apiece, with Maliksi unloading 17 hurtful points as Blackwater routed Ginebra 94-77.
That put both teams tied at 2-1 in a development that shocked even Blackwater’s head coach, Leo Isaac.
Almost immediately after the game, Isaac, by way of dousing a premature celebration of joy, told his wards: “Let’s forget about this quick. Let’s start from scratch all over again.”
He didn’t even cite Slaughter’s horrific zero output in the fourth quarter—after a 20-point effort in the first three quarters.
The win was a big follow-up triumph over Rain or Shine. Is winning, the Isaac way, here to stay?
We will know in five days.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on January 14, 2018.
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