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After the silence of Gilas Pilipinas win, Aguilar, Thompson return to roaring embrace of Ginebra crowd as Kings face Elite in battle of undefeated squads
By: - Sports Editor / @ftjochoaINQ
/ 05:40 AM September 21, 2018

The Araneta Coliseum, all quiet during Gilas Pilipinas’ closed door match against Qatar, is expected to get loud again as Barangay Ginebra battles Blackwater. —AUGUST DELA CRUZ

Japeth Aguilar ran his fingers through his thick hair searching for words to describe how unique his latest stint with Gilas Pilipinas was.

“It was weird, in a way,” the 6-foot-9 beanpole told the Inquirer in Filipino, after the Philippines came from behind to trip Qatar, 92-81, during their Fiba World Cup qualifying match on Monday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

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“Normally, we’d be energized by the crowd with [plays like that]. “And it would have also demoralized Qatar right away.”

The silence of the closed-door match, a repercussion that fell on the Philippines’ home game because of a brawl that erupted in its game against Australia two months ago, must have felt stranger to Aguilar—and Barangay Ginebra teammate Scottie Thompson—than to anyone else on the team.

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After all, the Kings are the PBA’s most beloved team and normally, slam dunks by the athletic Ginebra big man and offensive rebounds from the diminutive Thompson would have been enough to bring the house down.

Instead, as Aguilar highlighted a huge second-half explosion with a jam and Thompson purchased possession after extra possession by outrebounding Qatar’s big men, they were met with a silence interrupted only by cheering teammates, whose yells and applause echoed across an empty Big Dome.

“Of course, if that happened with Ginebra,” Aguilar said, pausing to find the right words. There was no need to finish the sentence though.

Aguilar and Thomspon will try to reclaim their place amid thunderous, roaring cheers at the same Big Dome as the Kings challenge a surprisingly rising Blackwater squad in a battle of undefeated squads on Friday in the Governors’ Cup.

The Elite made sure it would be a contest to keep a winning streak running when they held off slumping NorthPort Wednesday night, 113-111.

“The players really wanted to get that third win,” said Blackwater coach Bong Ramos, who called the game against the Batang Pier a “test of character.”

His squad will be bracing for a similar test against the Kings, who are coming off a 104-98 victory over NorthPort, with Aguilar and Thompson coming up with huge performances. Aguilar had 23 points and nine rebounds while Thompson collared 14 rebounds for the Kings.

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They will again anchor Ginebra’s charge against a Blackwater squad that drew strong performances in the stretch from under-the-radar standouts John Pinto and Chris Javier, who buried clucth baskets to stymie NorthPort’s late run.

Henry Walker, Mac Belo, Allein Maliksi and sharpshooter Mike DiGregorio will also try to come up with big games in the hopes of silencing a Ginebra crowd that is eager to applaud its two national players.

Justin Brownlee, who is seeking to become a naturalized Filipino, will also be at the forefront of Ginebra’s charge, along with LA Tenorio, Sol Mercado and Kevin Ferrer.

Greg Slaughter continues to be doubtful as he recovers from a sprained ankle.

June Mar Fajardo, Slaughter’s long-time rival and the league’s reigning four-time MVP, will continue to be absent for San Miguel Beer when the Beermen collide with Columbian in the first game of a doubleheader that kicks off at 4:30 p.m.

But the Beermen are still stacked, with Philippines star Christian Standhardinger leading the charge along with fellow nationals Marcio Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot.

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TAGS: Basketball, Fiba World Cup, Gilas Pilipinas, Japeth Aguilar
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