No longer the “Never-say-die” team

In the interview after the Rain-or-Shine Elasto Painters beat the Ginebra Gin Kings, Coach Yeng Guiao said: “Ginebra was never a light assignment. It didn’t feel like we had an advantage against them.”

While the Elasto Painters ended up in first place and the Gin Kings in last place among those who qualified for the quarterfinal round of the Commissioner’s Cup, those rankings were the results of the quotient system. Actually, Talk ‘N Text, Purefoods, and Rain or Shine were tied for first place, Meralco and NLex tied for second, and Ginebra, Alaska and Barako Bull for third place. So, the game between Rain or Shine and Ginebra was not really between No. 1 and No. 8. Technically, it could also be considered between No. 3 Rain or Shine and No. 6 Ginebra.

On paper, meaning if you base the rankings on the roster of players, Ginebra could even be the favored team what with two overall top draft picks in Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter and two former Most Valuable Player in Jayjay Helterbrand and Mark Caguioa and Rookie of the Year in Slaughter and one of the best point guards in the league. Rain or Shine can only boast of Gabe Norwood as the overall No. 1 draft pick and two Rookie of the Year in Norwood and Paul Lee. There is no former MVP in the RoS lineup.

It even looked to me like Ginebra deliberately allowed Alaska to beat them by six points so that they would end up in 8th place instead of 7th. If they lost to Alaska by less than six points they would have ended in 7th place. In which case they would have faced the powerhouse Talk ‘N Text, which due to the quotient system was ranked second in the standings. TNT’s lineup of Ranidel de Ocampo, Jayson Castro, Kelly Williams, Jay Washington, Larry Fonacier, Rob Reyes, Danny Seigle, Willie Miller, and the two prized rookies Ganuela Rosser and Kevin Alas, is very intimidating. Ginebra had good reasons to avoid TNT in the next round.

Alaska was ahead by four in the dying seconds in the game against Ginebra last Wednesday but Ginebra had the ball. Ginebra could have just let the time expire so that the 4-point lead of Alaska would stand. No, Ginebra took a wild shot, turning over the ball to Alaska. Alaska called time. Alex Compton designed a play. He didn’t have to. On the inbound Alaska import Damion James went straight to the hoop without any Ginebra player attempting to stop him from scoring.

Ginebra was leading by six points going into the last two minutes of that game. In the game against RoS last Friday, Ginebra was leading by 1 point and had ball possession going into the last 10 seconds. It was a sure win. For some reason the Gin Kings thought the shot clock had expired. Jeff Chan knocked the ball out of the Ginebra import Michael Dunigan’s hands, drove to the basket and scored. RoS by one point. Still four seconds were left. Gin Kings Coach Ato Agustin called time to design a play. The veteran Helterbrand got the inbound, dribbled to the baseline, and threw a desperation shot. The ball hit the shot clock. The players froze, looked at the referee as if expecting them to call a replay of the last sequence. The referees did no such thing. The once Never-say-die team has died. Ginebra is out of the semifinals of the Commissioner’s Cup, maybe out of the heart of many Ginebra fanatics.

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