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Ginebra braces for JMF’s return: ‘He still has a say on who the big boys are’

The PBA Philippine Cup has a new ruler. Barangay Ginebra conquered the latest edition of the league’s most prestigious conference following its gentleman’s sweep of corporate rivals TNT Tropang GIGA last week. 

The Gin Kings have now won their fifth championship in four years, and their second this 2020 alone. They won last season’s Governors’ Cup title at the expense of a familiar foe in Meralco just last January.

By ending a long 13-year drought in the import-less tournament, the PBA’s most popular team collected its 13th crown overall. It now ties the fabled Crispa franchise for fourth in all-time most championships in league history.

This year has been full of challenges, but Ginebra has made it one to remember with those triumphs. So head coach Tim Cone was asked: Does he feel that this is the breakout year for Ginebra?

“If you ask me if this is a breakout for us, well, I think June Mar Fajardo will have something to say about that,” the 62-year-old mentor quipped in the Power and Play program hosted by Noli Eala last Saturday.

“We’ll just enjoy it while we can.”

Before Ginebra assumed kingship, San Miguel Beer lorded over the Philippine Cup for the last five years. The Beermen have made a strong case as the best all-Filipino crew ever assembled with their unmatched and unprecedented feat.

And the major reason behind their success was June Mar Fajardo, the league’s reigning six-time Most Valuable Player. But without him in the bubble – plus injuries to key cogs – the Beermen’s reign came to a screeching halt.

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But even with their dominion ended, Cone – and surely the other coaches, too – aren’t counting out SMB for next season. After all, Fajardo is coming back fully recovered from a leg injury he suffered earlier this year.

It’s no secret how much of a game-changer the 6-foot-10 slotman is. So for Cone, he hopes to have Greg Slaughter back in the fold for next season as they try to go toe-to-toe with the veteran-laden Beermen squad.

“And like I said I hope we will get Greg back at some point, and June Mar will come back and we’ll be able to battle them toe-to-toe,” he said.

“But June Mar still has a big say on who the big boys are.”

To win another championship is undeniably a tough task to fulfill. Cone himself knows it, but he doesn’t run out of inspiration to win more – this, even if he already has 23 titles under his belt.

Yes. Twenty-three.

“When they were having that long table where everybody was watching,” Cone recalled of their mini victory party at the Quest Hotel, “the coaching staff was sitting by the pool looking into the room, and we were watching them.

“They were doing karaoke, they were singing, you know, they were doing all kinds of stuff. And I turned to Richard (Richard Del Rosario, Ginebra assistant coach) and said, ‘This is the best part right here.’ Watching these guys celebrate. Watching these guys be happy. This is the best part. This is what you work for. That never gets old,” furthered Cone, who’s been coaching in the PBA since 1989.

“Honestly, it never gets old.”

Written By

Oftentimes on the sidelines. Forever a student of the game. Morayta-bred.

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