On Tuesday evening, Japeth Aguilar proved that defense wins games, much to the delight of the Barangay.
The 6-foot-9 forward swatted away Allen Durham’s potential game-tying lay-up with about 13 seconds left, helping Ginebra walk away with the 91-87 win over rivals Meralco Bolts and take Game One of the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup Finals.
Coach Tim Cone was clearly in awe of that game-saving stop by Aguilar, who had three blocks in the victory.
“Japeth had the game-saving block at the end of the game. It’s really nice to see him do that defensively. He’s done it so many times offensively, and he’s also done that defensively, but that was really spectacular,” Cone expressed.
“That block at the end of the game — [going] one-on-one with Durham with a full head of steam, and getting up and getting a hand on that shot. That was really a tremendous play, one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.”
For Aguilar, he expected that the Bolts would go to Durham in that possession, so he simply did his best to defend him.
“Parang alam ko kaagad na magte-take over si Durham. Ilang seconds na lang, so kita ko nasa kanya na ‘yung bola. Ang nakita ko attack strong, so talagang nag-focus na lang ako sa kanya,” said Aguilar, who finished with 16 points.
“Ayun. Tinry ko na lang ‘yung best ko. Tapos ayun, fortunately [I was able to block him].”
Moreover, the 32-year-old, 6-foot-9 big man had already been figuring in a heated battle with Durham.
All game long, Aguilar and Durham had been having a war of words. According to the product of Ateneo, the American import had been ruing numerous non-calls on him.
But Aguilar did not let Durham get into his head, focusing on the game, which eventually resulted in his epic rejection.
“Nag-complain siya sa referee na tinulak ko siya. I might have pushed him, pero ganun talaga. Minsan ‘di natatawag ‘yung call, pero minsan natatawag,” he said.
“It goes both ways. But after nun, nag-move on na ako and nag-focus na ako sa ibang mga bagay.”
Now, though, Aguilar hopes that the Gin Kings will be able to sustain their energy on defense in the series.
“Ano lang, every game is different. Sana ma-sustain namin ‘yung defensive energy. Kung ‘di lang ma-sustain, sana mahigitan pa namin,” he said.
“One game, it’s a long series pa. At least ‘yun ang mentality namin.”