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May 23, 2019

Gin Kings start title defense versus Elite

Crowd-darling Barangay Ginebra, with import Justin Brownlee, will finally be back in action, opening their title defense in the PBA Commissioner's Cup versus Blackwater at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Friday night.

The Kings strut their stuff again after an unceremonious exit in the Philippine Cup with another playoff matchup loss to the Magnolia Pambansang Manok Hotshots.

Beaten by Magnolia in the Governors Cup semifinals and eased out by the same team in the Philippine Cup quarterfinals, the Kings are hopeful they can perform better in this tourney they won over the San Miguel Beermen last season.

There's a lot of reasons for the Kings to be hopeful, No. 1 is the return of Brownlee, with whom they have had much success.

They go for a triumphant start at 7 p.m. versus the Blackwater team that is looking for a follow-up to a victorious conference debut against Meralco on Sunday.

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Alex Stepheson, Mike Digregorio and RayRay Parks shared the scoring load as the Elite dumped the Bolts, 94-91, in overtime.

Stepheson produced 21 points and 31 big rebounds, Digregorio shared scoring honors with 21 and Parks dished out a 20-point effort as the Elite emerged triumphantly in their first outing under new coach Aris Dimaunahan.

"To tell you the truth I was so nervous. But credit to the players for sticking it out and working hard," said Dimaunahan, shortly after the win.

"I'm happy that the players stuck together. Even though we trailed against Meralco, a very strong team with a very, very good coach, and a contender, the players didn't fold up," added Dimaunahan, the new Blackwater coach in lieu of Bong Ramos.

Curiously, Dimaunahan goes for a second straight win against the very team where he won championships as a player.

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It could be a good matchup.

The Elite are likely to have their hands full against Brownlee but so do the Kings versus the hulking Stepheson.

The job to neutralize Stepheson will likely be on Greg Slaughter and Prince Caperal, with Japeth Aguilar to provide a second line of defense. (SB)