Veteran sports anchor and ESPN5.com writer Charlie Cuna gives his two cents on the PBA Governors' Cup, covering the period of October 22 to 28.
Game of the week
There were eight games in the eighth week of the PBA Governors' Cup, including the always-anticipated Manila Clasico between Ginebra and Magnolia on Sunday. The Game of the Week, though, came on Friday at Ynares Center, Antipolo, where Alaska and NLEX battled through an extra five minutes of overtime, where the Road Warriors prevailed, 116-110.
Several times, it looked as though NLEX, which had led for most of the game, could have just rolled over and allowed the Aces to run away with it after Alaska grabbed the lead, but timely shots from several of coach Yeng Guiao's players, especially import Aaron Fuller, forced the extra period. JR Quinahan took over in OT, scoring 10 of his 15 points, as NLEX moved one step closer to clinching a playoff seat. This game was truly a battle, with big shot after big shot, defensive stop after defensive stop, as well as miscues, which opened the door for the other team time and again. Should Alaska-NLEX end up as a playoff matchup, it would be surely be an interesting one.
NLEX's win keeps playoffs within reach
The NLEX Road Warriors outlast the Alaska Aces 116-110 in overtime to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Top performance of the week by a local
Ian Sangalang had a whale of a game against TNT on Friday, finishing with 28 points (on 13/19 shooting, 68%) and six rebounds. Alex Cabagnot scored 24 points and pulled down eight rebounds against Rain or Shine on Saturday, in a game where Maverick Ahanmisi scored 26 points, with seven rebounds and six assists in a loss.
But, the top performance again goes to Cabagnot's teammate, Christian Standhardinger, who actually had two outstanding performances, helping SMB go 2-0 for the week. First, on Wednesday, in a win against Northport, C-Stan had 21 points and 22 rebounds. He followed that up with 22 points and 18 rebounds against Rain or Shine on Saturday. In the absence of fellow big man June Mar Fajardo, Standhardinger has stepped up big time and given the Beermen an alternative inside presence that wreaks havoc on opponents all over the floor with his hustle and nose for the ball. Now that Fajardo is back and will be slowly re-infused into the regular rotation, the Standhardinger-Nabong-Fajardo trio may be sending shivers down possible playoff opponents' spines.
Top performance of the week by an import
For a replacement import whom NLEX hired supposedly only for a temporary stint, Aaron Fuller has sure played his heart out for the Road Warriors. Known to be mostly a jump shooter and a "garbage guy" who likes to work on the boards and get follow-ups or wait by the baseline for drop passes from teammates, Fuller went beyond himself in the overtime victory against Alaska on Friday, pulling out moves we hadn't seen before, spinning to the basket, knocking down jumpers a little out of his usual range, and being clutch (he hit the game-tying reverse underneath to force extra time).
En route to his 42 points and 22 rebounds, he was visibly exhausted, huffing and puffing, bending down and grabbing his shorts, but he kept on shuffling up and down the court, held his own against tough Harris and the other Alaska frontliners, and continued to play hard, despite his team's struggles at certain points late in the game, in what may have been his best PBA game in his two conferences.
Honorable mention goes to Harris of Alaska, as he put up numbers (35 points, 26 rebounds, and four blocks against NLEX, then 27 points, 25 rebounds, and five assists versus NorthPort), and TNT's Marqus Blakely, who had himself a triple-double (17 points, 18 rebounds, and 11 assists, with three steals) against Magnolia.
June Mar Fajardo wastes no time in return
The San Miguel Beermen extended their winning streak to four with a 109-97 victory over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, in June Mar Fajardo's return from injury.
Disappointing performance of the week
This has become a familiar refrain. It has been really tough for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters this conference. They started their campaign late because of Asian Games duties, had trouble with their imports, played several games in a short span, lost one of their main big men, and just could not get on track.
This past week, it was doubly tough, as the team lost both its games, first to Phoenix and then to San Miguel Beer. The more disappointing performance actually came against Phoenix on Wednesday as ROS led by 10 points entering the fourth quarter and looked to bounce back from a sub-standard week prior. However, the team allowed the Fuel Masters to outscore it, 29-13, turning a 10-point lead into a six-point loss, 103-97.
The E-Painters' offense sputtered and their defense became porous almost simultaneously in the fourth. The result? Perhaps the worst overall conference of Rain or Shine in recent memory and one that team management, coaches, and players will surely want to forget.
Must-see for this week
The league takes a break on Wednesday and Friday this week, but there are doubleheaders both on Saturday and Sunday, the last game dates for the elimination round. There are playoff implications in all four games, so all should be appealing one way or the other. The one that gets us most curious is the first game on Sunday between Phoenix and Blackwater. These are two teams that are enjoying considerable success this conference, finding themselves in a situation where the winner will enter the top four and enjoy a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinal round. Isn't that worth going all out for?