Familiarity helped Meralco’s Ballesteros in career game vs Ginebra
BOCAUE — Familiarity was the key for Jason Ballesteros when Meralco met Barangay Ginebra at Philippine Arena.
Facing former Gilas teammates and now-Ginebra big men Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar on Sunday, it was like old times once again for the former San Sebastian Stag as he outwitted his younger counterparts on his way to a career-best 17 rebounds with seven points to boot.
“I was just lucky,” Ballesteros said in Filipino. “In a way, I know how they play because we were teammates before at Gilas.”
But it was more than luck for Ballesteros as his tireless effort was crucial in the Bolts’ 84-82 escape act over the Gin Kings, a victory that kept them in the hunt for a playoff spot in the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup.
The 6-foot-6 bruiser hauled down the crucial board after two big misses from Reynel Hugnatan and Chris Newsome in the final minute and scored the go-ahead bucket, 83-82, with 36.2 seconds left.
He followed it up with another important board that led to him making another free throw with 17.3 ticks remaining.
Meralco was on the brink of elimination but Ballesteros shared the team isn’t willing to go down without a fight as it stayed alive for a 4-6 record.
“Coach told us that if we want to make it to the quarters, we have to play right, especially now that we’re facing Ginebra’s big men. So we really had to step up,” he said.
The job, though, isn’t done yet and Ballesteros knows that as much as he would like to fill the long-coveted missing piece in the middle for the Bolts, the goal for the team is to make a late push to the playoffs.
“We just want to stay positive. It’s always the same: we have to stay positive,” he said.
Meralco faces Magnolia on Saturday in Cagayan de Oro for the two teams’ final elimination game.