Fans now know one likely reason behind the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s sluggish start versus the NLEX Road Warriors on Saturday, when they locked horns in front of Kapampangans at the Angeles University Foundation Arena in Pampanga.
Saturday evening, the PBA uploaded a video to its official Facebook page, where Ginebra head coach Tim Cone himself revealed that the majority of his charges had been unfortunately stricken with food poisoning.
“I don’t think a lot of people know that we had a really bad case of food poisoning,” Cone said.
“It went through the team all day yesterday. The hardest hit was Mark Caguioa. Sol [Mercado] was hit hard, I was hit hard – we have about eight to nine players suffering from food poisoning.”
The Road Warriors gladly took advantage of their sluggishness. They buried eight triples in the opening frame alone, and a Poy Erram trey with 8:43 to go in the second frame gave them a huge 42-28 advantage.
“They came out fiery. They’re getting wide-open threes and they’re knocking them all down. I think they made like [eight] threes in the first, and we have to kind of adjust our defense so that we can battle it out a bit more,” Cone said.
But as the game progressed, the Gin Kings managed to regain their groove. Banking on their solid defense, the Barangay came back from the deep hole and extinguished NLEX’s blazing guns, to walk away with the 105-96 win.
“I felt we played a really good second quarter defensively, and that game was kind of the blueprint for the rest of the game,” the Grand Slam coach said. “So when guys came out and started playing that kind of defense in the second quarter, slowly but surely we caught up, got ahead, and was able to hold on.”
Cone credited coach Yeng Guiao and the Road Warriors, however, who – aside from usual providers such as Erram and JR Quiñahan – also received significant contributions from Kenneth Ighalo, Philip Paniamogan, and Bong Galanza.
“This team is playing really well. There are no names on that team, but they’re all playing like superstars.
“Gotta give a lot of credit to coach Yeng and what he”s been doing over there. That has been his MO since the beginning of his career: being able to get no-name guys to step up and be huge contributors,” Cone said.
The win had officially sealed Ginebra’s place in the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals, and they have also kept themselves in the running to clinch the second seed, which merits a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarters.
Cone said that he would really want to get that top two spot.
“Yeah, that would be nice. I think what we’re trying to avoid really are top teams like San Miguel, Talk N Text, of course, Phoenix and Rain or Shine. Those teams out there are playing really well, you wanna kind of avoid them in the first round. So if we can get to the Top Two, then we get a chance to avoid those guys, and that’s the biggest motivating factor for us,” said Cone.
“But aside from that, we’re just trying to get to that Top Six, try to win as many games as we can, and stay with what’s right ahead of us.”
What’s ahead for Ginebra is their penultimate game of the eliminations versus rival Meralco Bolts on March 27. Though they will go in as the favorites with a three-game streak, Cone doesn’t want to be complacent.
“We need to go out and get ready for Meralco. They’re not out by any means. They need to win that last game, hope a couple of teams lose, and if they do then they get the playoffs. They’ll be in desperation mode when playing,” Cone closed.
“[It’s] always hard to play against a desperate team.”
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