October 26, 2017

Ginebra, Meralco go for broke

The truly memorable teams win the hard way, and that's the case for either Barangay Ginebra or Meralco as they clash in an ultimate duel - Game Seven - to determine the winner of the 2017 PBA Governors Cup championship at the Philippine Arena Friday.

After back-to-back record crowds, an even bigger attendance is expected as the Gin Kings and the Bolts shoot for all the marbles and an emphatic climax to a best-of-seven series that has seen momentum swing like a pendulum.

Ginebra won Games One, Two and Five on crucial closing flurries while Meralco took Games Three, Four and Six while showing a dogged determination to stay alive.

They battle for one last time at 7 p.m. with either the Kings making a first ever successful title defense, or the Bolts scoring a breakthrough championship.

"Best two words in sports - Game Seven," said Ginebra coach Tim Cone on how special the game determining the winner of the season-ending tourney.

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"Truly it is. There's nothing more exciting or suspense-filled than playing in a Game Seven. The best thing that you can do is to enjoy the opportunity. That's really the best approach," Cone said.

Meralco coach Norman Black said there's nothing one can expect from it except two teams dishing out their very best to win it.

The Bolts fought gallantly every inch of the way to pull off a 98-91 win Wednesday that sent the best-of-seven title series to full distance.

"We're now in the same situation as they are -- one game to end the season. We just have to find a way to keep our guys fresh and come back to win the championship Friday," said Black, hoping they will be able to make a good finishing kick in the series to deliver a first PBA championship to the Meralco franchise.

"We have to do it again. But one thing I know about coach Tim (Cone), you can't do the same thing twice against him," Black also said, anticipating an uphill battle.
Cone doesn't feel experience on their side in this grand battle. And if it does, Cone isn't convinced it would be a factor.
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"I'm not sure experience will go into a Game Seven. It is an animal all by itself. It's truly a 50-50 game, that's why you don't want to play a Game Seven. It's anybody's game at this point," he said.

"I don't know if this group is special. I don't think we have played a Game Seven together. Norman certainly has his share of Game Seven so I'm not sure experience will play in this one," he added.

The two coaches have limited their rotations to their core players in the last game. A change in the matchups is the possible return of Sol Mercado from his injury in this do-or-die game.

"Obviously we really missed him. I don't know. He was walking pretty well, he's still on a boot but that's more of a precautionary. We'll test him out in practice and see where he is. I wouldn't say he's a lock to play, but I can't say he's 100 percent sure he wouldn't play. Most likely he'll be a game time decision," said Cone.

It's a grand moment where real heroes emerge and legends grow.

Black is likely to bank on Allen Durham, Reynel Hugnatan, Chris Newsome, Cliff Hodge, Baser Amer, Jared Dillinger and Garvo Lanete in what could well be a fight to the finish versus Ginebra's Justin Brownlee, Greg Slaughter, LA Tenorio, Joe Devance, Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, Mark Caguioa and Kevin Ferrer.