By Jonas Terrado
Japeth Aguilar is making a difference for Barangay Ginebra San Miguel through three games of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals, particularly with his play on the defensive end.
The athletic big man is averaging 19.0 points on 49-percent shooting with 6.0 rebounds to emerge as Ginebra’s most consistent local in the best-of-seven championship series.
But it’s his 3.7 blocks that has caught the attention of fans, not only for his game-saving swat on Allen Durham in the series opener but for the seven he had in Sunday’s 92-84 victory at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“It was a block party out there,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
Having Aguilar deliver on both ends has given the Kings more belief of their chances to reign supreme over the Bolts for a third time in the season-ending conference.
Aguilar’s seven blocks Sunday not only tied his second-best output in a game but also moved him past Alvin Patrimonio, Abe King and Poch Juinio for 12th all-time in blocks.
The 32-year-old, already in his ninth pro season, has 583 career blocks.
“Ever since nag-start ako ng basketball, yun ang naging niche ko,” he said. “I mean shot blocker ako ever since high school at college…ginagawa ko lang yung role ko. Alam ko yun ang isang strength ko. So I try to do it to the best of my abilities.”
Cone acknowledged that shot-blocking is a “fun skill for him [Aguilar],” but he wouldn’t mind such notion if it benefits Ginebra.
“That’s something that keys the team, that keys the fans,” said Cone. “Blocking shots is a big turnaround play. I don’t think there’s anybody in the league that’s a better weakside defender than Japeth. It’s just a matter of him staying low and being alert and seeing it coming and anticipating that shot and going and get that. And he’s learned to do that.
“So full credit to him because he’s worked on that. He’s worked on that part of his game,” he added.
Aguilar could benefit on the potential absence of the injured Raymond Almazan in Game 4 set Wednesday at the Big Dome.
Regardless, it seems Aguilar has all the confidence needed to lord the paint for the rest of the Finals.