The Barangay Ginebra Kings mounted firm in the face of numerous rallies from Rain or Shine to prevail, 90-85, in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday night at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Power forward and Center Japeth Aguilar paced the team with 23 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks as the Kings now hold 2-0, still undefeated in the ongoing PBA Season 47. Japeth then scored eight of his game-high in the fourth quarter as the Gin Kings held on to the win after they were outscored 27-16 in the period. He also finished with seven rebounds and two blocks.
The opposing team Rain or Shine relying on its core of Nieto, Gian Mamuyac, Andrei Caracut, and Santi Santillan – did not waive the white flag despite trailing by as many as 21 points as in the last round.
While, the reigning MVP Scottie Thompson added 16 points, eight assists, and six rebounds, and 2 blocks. Versatile big man Christian Standhardinger chipped in 13 points, 14 boards, 4 assists, and 3 steals.
“I just thought that we were playing the swings of the game. We’d get up to a big lead, and then we’d soften up a little bit, and they’d come back. We gotta clean that up,” said head coach Tim Cone after the game.
“We played Rain or Shine who had a lot of young guards, and who played without their star, and so, we should have dictated the game a little bit better than we did. Obviously, we’re happy that we did,” he added.
An Aguilar layup pushed the Ginebra lead to its biggest at 79-58, but the Elastro Painters retaliated with a 24-8 run capped by back-to-back triples from Nieto and Santillan to inch within 5 points.
Mike Nieto came off the bench for the E-Painters and counted 15 points and 5 rebounds to pace the shorthanded Elasto Painters, who badly missed the services of top gunner Rey Nambatac and veteran Gabe Norwood.
Time did not favor Rain or Shine as the Gin Kings banked on free throws from Aguilar and LA Tenorio to secure the victory.
Rain or Shine’s young guards also had outstanding performances as Andrei Caracut pitched in 12 markers, while rookie Gian Mamuyac piled on 10. Beau Belga nearly had a triple-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists.
In addition, Nick Demusis, the 6-foot-4 player that was previously traded from Phoenix to Rain or Shine, felt like a homecoming while playing with Elasto Painters. The team is familiar with Demusis who used to practice with the crew while still playing for the Bacoor Strikers in the MPBL. The Strikers were handed back then by Chris Gavina, now head coach of Rain or Shine.
Now Demusis finally has to join the Elasto Painters, in what is said as a ‘new start’ of his career. The Fil-Am player mentioned, he is excited playing under head Coach Gavina again and is savoring the change environment following the trade completed before the start of PBA Season 47.
“The change in scenery is what I’m excited about,” said Demusis, adding he was quick to move on after being let go by Phoenix, the same team that picked him in the second round of the 2020 draft.“It’s part of the business, part of the game. Trade happens,” he said.
Demusis admitted he’s been hearing about a possible trade as early as last season, but it never materialized. Therefore, it did hit him a bit hard when it finally did.
“When it happened, I was kind of shocked,” he said. “But you have to go in there as part of the business.” Not for anything else, since he said there are no ill feelings on his part against the Fuel Masters.
“I’m excited more than anything else. I kind of miss those guys, too,” said Demusis.
“At the end of the day, we’re still brothers.” Demusis added.