TIM Cone lauded Japeth Aguilar for stepping up big time for Barangay Ginebra in the absence of injured frontcourt partner Greg Slaughter.
Not lost on the legendary coach was Aguilar doubling his effort on both ends of the floor and help the Kings score a 99-96 win over TnT Katropa in overtime Friday night in the PBA Governors' Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The slam dunking big man finished with a team-high 29 points and 10 rebounds, while shooting a high 13-of-16 from the field in the win that pushed the Kings back in the Top 4 of the standings with a 6-3 record.
Aguilar's explosion couldn't have come at a better time especially with the 7-foot Slaughter out indefinitely with a dislocated thumb on his right hand.
"He was really active around the rim, putting putbacks, diving hard, getting a lot of cuts. That's truly when he's at his best is when he's doing stuff like that," said Cone of the high-flying Aguilar.
"He just did a tremendous job at that (tonight)."
And Cone knows if Aguilar continues to play like that the rest of the conference, the Kings will truly be a force to reckon with in the playoffs.
"That's what makes us really tough, when he's doing that kind of stuff, we're really, really tough," said Cone.
"He's just a huge presence. Nobody can get up as high as he can, even the imports. He just towers over everybody, with his long reach and jumping ability," added Cone.
Cone is uncertain when the Kings can have Slaughter back to active duty after suffering the freak accident in practice on Friday.
Slaughter sat out the game against TnT although he did watch the action on the bench.
While test showed there's no serious damage on the injured thumb, but Cone nonetheless is tempering expectations.
"We didn't see any ligament damage in the MRI or any broken bones, but there was a clear dislocation. You could see his finger was dangling when he got it hit during practice," said the Ginebra coach. "We're hoping within a week he could comeback but we never know. It could be longer. We've got cases where those kind of thumb injury can last a month or two, so we'll see."
At least against the erstwhile leader Katropa, Aguilar proved he can deliver when needed to.
"He really stepped up in Greg's absence," said Cone. (RG)