It might be coincidence, but the Blackwater Elite’s victory over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel was mainly anchored by former players of the league’s most popular team.
From head coach Leo Isaac to assistant mentor Aries Dimaunahan down to their key players like Allein Maliksi and Mike Cortez, these former Gin Kings were able to bring their A-game to help the Elite notch their first franchise win over the Gin Kings.
“Kung ganun man yung observation mo, natapat lang yun,” Isaac, a member of the Robert Jaworski-coached squads that won multiple championships, told InterAksyon.
“This team has always beaten us since we joined the PBA, but now that we’ve broken the spell, we can now also break the spell of the other teams and start to be on the winning end everytime we play good, quality basketball.”
Dimaunahan, a member of the Ginebra champion squads coached by Siot Tanquingcen, was also instrumental in Blackwater’s historic win, coming up with a game plan that would negate Ginebra’s size advantage over the Elite.
“Ginebra has so much height. Prior to our game, Ginebra scored 62 points from the paint sa last game nila. We tried to limit that. We took away the strength and mapunta sa amin yung advantage kapag maka-stop kami,” said Dimaunahan.
For Maliksi, taken by Ginebra in a trade with the old Barako Bull during the shooting forward’s rookie season, there’s a special meaning on beating Ginebra coached by his former mentor, Tim Cone.
“Mindset namin is Ginebra yan, champion team yan. Alam natin ang head coach nila pinakamagaling sa Pilipinas. Solid yung core players nila. Sabi ko sa mga teammates ko, we need to play our A-game. Hindi puwedeng may isang pangit ang laro. Kapag may isang pangit ang laro sa amin, mahirap talunin yung Ginebra. Kailangan namin to work as a team,” said Maliksi.
Cortez, who also spent a few seasons playing for the Gin Kings then coached by Jong Uichico, considered the victory as a breakthrough for the young Blackwater franchise.
“We just wanted to continue the momentum from our last win. We’re not really about who are we playing against, but we were really playing against ourselves. We know and we understand that if we play as a team, we’re gonna be hard to beat,” said Cortez.