2014 PBA Governors Cup: Ginebra and Air 21 are early leaders!

Two coaches. Two wins. Top of the heap.
Air 21's Franz Pumaren up top, and Ginebra's Jeff Cariaso at the bottom.

First Game:
Coach Franz Pumaren is probably beaming right now as his Express continue their surprisingly good play at this time in the season. A few weeks after gatecrashing the semifinals of the Commish Cup, Air 21 now stands at first place in the standings with a 2-0 card. Much of the credit, of course, goes to import Dom Sutton, who has really complemented all the strengths of the Express. In this match, Sutton shot 10/18 from the floor to drop a total of 24 points while also collaring 16 boards, handing out 4 assists, and getting 6 steals. Judging by the way he has played so far, it seems like Sutton is a throwback to the days when imports did practically everything for his PBA club.  The Express, of course, aren’t complaining one bit. 

There were three main reasons Barako Bull fell flat in this game:  they committed too many turnovers, they were outworked on the glass, and their starters were ineffective. The Energy Cola coughed the ball up 10 more times than Air 21, which scored 19 markers of the 18 Barako Bull errors. With Sutton and Asi Taulava dominating the glass, Barako Bull also lost in the rebounding department, 50-42. And, well, apart from Ronjay Buenafe, no other local starter scored in double-figures. Mick Pennisi, Denok Miranda, and Willy Wilson all combined to shoot 5/13 from the field, while promising forward JC Intal played only 5 minutes and laid a big fat egg.

Ageless: Asi Taulava. What else can be said about the kind of season The Rock has been having? He is, statistically, the third-best player in this conference right behind his two heir apparents (Fajardo and Slaughter), and there definitely seems like he has no plans of stopping. In this particular game, Taulava drilled in 22 points on 9/16 FG shooting along with 12 boards and 5 dimes. 

Second Game:
After just two games, it sure looks like the Ginebra Gin Kings are buying into the mindset and system of new coach Jeffrey Cariaso. Under the Tim Cone protege, Ginebra fashioned out its second win in as many games — a 97-82 drubbing of the Meralco Bolts. With better shot selection, interior defense, and rebounding, the Kings moved up to a share of first place with the surging Air 21 Express. Import Zack Mason was the star again for Ginebra, dominating the smaller Bolts with 12/21 FG shooting. He also hauled down 19 boards in 43 minutes of action.

Coach Ryan Gregorio’s wards enjoyed a hot start in this game, outscoring Ginebra, 43-28, in the first half, but the Bolts couldn’t sustain the pressure and they started firing blanks in the second half. It also didn’thelp that their bench didn’t do much, too. Meralco’s first five scored all but 6 of their 82-point total, while, on the other end, the Kings enjoyed 29 points from their reserves. 

Big Man’s Game: After a so-so showing in the second conference, it appears that 2013 top overall pick Greg Slaughter is out to really establish himself as one of the league’s best players and challenge June Mar Fajardo’s claim as the country’s top slotman. Slaughter was practically unstoppable in this game, shooting 7/11 from the field on his way to 22 points in 29 minutes. He also grabbed 10 boards and blocked 4 Meralco attempts. As of this writing, the former Ateneo Blue Eagle is putting up around 21 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. Statistically, he is second only to… Fajardo. 

Game recaps by Rey Joble/InterAKTV:

AIR 21 over BARAKO BULL, 101-86

The Air 21 Express took the early lead in the PLDT Home Telpad Governors’ Cup standings on Saturday after an easy 101-86 victory over Barako Bull at Mall of Asia Arena.

With their second win in as many games, the Express are off to the best start in franchise history after joining the PBA as the Shopinas.com Clickers in 2011.

The good start comes after Air 21 made a Cinderella run to the semifinals last conference.

Barako Bull, meanwhile, dropped its second straight game after winning its opener against Meralco.

Import Dominique Sutton stuffed the stat sheet with 24 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, and six steals for the Express. He got plenty of support from ageless center Asi Taulava, who posted his second straight dominant performance to start the tournament, finishing with 22 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists for Air 21.

Joseph Yeo added 17, while Mac Cardona chipped in 16 for the Express, who have been gangbusters on offense to open the conference.

“We are playing within a system, using our advantage and strength,” said Air 21 coach Franz Pumaren. “Our import is right for our system. Everybody is stepping up, even the big guys.”

Pumaren paid tribute to Sutton, who is still adjusting to the PBA game after coming in as a late choice for the team.

“We need a high-scoring import but can help other aspects of the game. Sutton is still feeling his way in, he’s still trying to get his timing,” said Pumaren.

Even more bad news for Express opponents: forward Sean Anthony, the hero of their quarterfinals upset over San Miguel Beer last conference, could return soon from a foot injury.

“If pain is tolerable, Anthony may play on Tuesday,” said Pumaren, as the Express are set to take on crowd darling Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.

AIR 101- Sutton 24, Taulava 22, Yeo 17, Cardona 16, Ramos 8, Camson 8, Villanueva 3, Atkins 3, Boborfan 0, Jaime 0, Poligrates 0, Burtscher 0.
BAR 86 — Wise 24, Fortuna 13, Lastimosa 10, Najorda 10, Buenafe 10, Miranda 4, Jensen 2, Wilson 2, Marcelo 2, Thiele 0, Deutchman 0, Intal 0.
QS: 25-22; 52-45; 80-72; 101-86

Coach Franz Pumaren's patience has finally been paying dividends.

Mac Cardona flashes a smile as the Express get win #2.

Barako Bull's Ronjay Buenafe fades away against Air 21's Simon Atkins.


Barangay Ginebra San Miguel remained perfect in the PLDT Home Telpad Governors’ Cup under coach Jeffrey Cariaso after defeating Meralco, 95-82, on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.

The win gave the Gin Kings a share of the lead in the standings with the Air 21 Express, with both teams sporting identical 2-0 records.

“Every game that you play is different. What I like tonight is we stuck with the system,” said Ginebra coach Jeffrey Cariaso, whose squad survived a hot start from the Bolts in the first quarter.

“I told them after halftime, we have to be consistent and play defense. Mindset is playing defense and sharing the ball.”

Import Zaccheus Mason dominated the smaller Bolts down low, bullying his way to 32 points and 19 rebounds. Rookie center Greg Slaughter also had his way with Meralco in the paint, finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks.

With the two men leading the way, Ginebra dominated the boards, 57-48.

It was the second straight lopsided win for the Gin Kings after they opened the tournament with an 89-71 result against GlobalPort last Tuesday.

Terrence Williams led Meralco with 26 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists, but he once again shot miserably from the three-point line, going 2-of-9.

Cliff Hodge added 19 points for the Bolts, who lost their third straight game to open the tournament.

GIN 95 — Mason 32, Slaughter 22, Baracael 11, Ellis 9, Aguilar 4, Tenorio 4, Caguioa 4, Monfort 3, Reyes 2, Helterbrand 2, Mamaril 2, Ababou 0.
MER 82 — Williams 26, Hodge 19, David 12, Dillinger 11, Hugnatan 8, Ildefonso 2, Caram 2, Wilson 2, Timberlake 0, Salvacion 0.
QS: 18-28; 46-43; 68-61; 95-82

Not even the 19 points of Cliff Hodge could tow Meralco to a W.

The Ginebra Gin Kings are finally playing like contenders.

Jeff Cariaso's system has helped flesh out the potential in Ginebra.

All images are by Pranz Kaeno Billones/Sports 5.

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