After falling in a 0-2 hole, Barangay Ginebra was confident that they could also get back-to-back wins in order to tie their best-of-seven series against the Star Hotshots.
“I thought our guys had great resolve today,” coach Tim Cone said on how they managed to emerge victorious for the second straight game. “After they beat us twice in a row, everybody said that we can beat them twice in a row. They were true to their word. They came back and did it.”
One of the adjustments that Ginebra made in their last two victories was to give Jervy Cruz a starting role. In Game 4, Cruz was extra aggressive and finished with 21 points (11/13 from the line), six rebounds, three assists, a steal, and a block.
The former UAAP MVP has been used to maximizing his limited minutes with the Kings, given their stacked roster that features the Twin Towers Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar. With Slaughter still out with an injury, the burden of manning the frontcourt was left with Aguilar. It does not help that another one of their big men Joe Devance, who serves as their defensive anchor and leader on and off the court, also sustained an injury at the start of the playoffs.
Devance played in their last two games, but he could only get them as far as his anesthetic shots could take him. In his second game back, he only got to stay on the floor for eight minutes.
“Today was a struggle. It was more painful today that’s why I think I played less minutes tonight. I just don’t really think I could get back on the court,” the Fil-Am forward said.
Needless to say, Cruz needed to step up and actively help Aguilar against Star’s tough bigs like Marc Pingris and Rafi Reavis. His ‘sure-shot’ midrange jumpers were on full display last night, and his productive showing was capped off by a three-point play off a drop pass from Aguilar that put the game away.
Cruz said Devance motivates him to be more confident and to give his 100 percent whenever he steps on the hardwood.
“Sabi (ni Joe), ‘basta tumira ka lang, kumpyansa ka lang.’ Inisip ko, ako okay ako, wala akong injury, tapos sya nagpapakamatay sa loob. So ibinibigay ko na lahat para makatulong sa team.”
Devance, in turn, said he’s really proud of Cruz’s performance.
“He’s beeen working hard this whole conference – getting his body right and getting his mind right. He lost a lot of weight and stuff. He’s playing a good and confident game. We all just told him to be aggressive and to take the shot. He’s our best shooting big on the team and he needs to take those shots. That’s what he’s been doing and I’m proud of him.”
Cone knows that for them to survive the series, they would need huge contributions from guys like Cruz, Kevin Ferrer, Dave Marcelo, Chris Ellis, and the rest of the team.
“We got a lot of help from guys other than Japeth and LA today. That was huge for us. That’s what it’s gonna take for the rest of the series. (Star is) working really hard on those two guys and kind of creating a void for us because they’re not getting the numbers that we expect. That void is being filled by other guys.”
“This is our sixth game in 11 days and every one of them has been tough. There’s not been an easy game, win or lose,” Cone continued. “I think the big key for us now is trying to continue to find the energy to battle their pressure and the way they’re playing. That’s our battle right now going into Game 5. We got to keep moving forward. There’s still a long way to go.”