Barangay Ginebra has been displaying elite defense in the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup best-of-seven finals series against Meralco the past couple of games.
And one slotman should be credited as the anchor of this rim-locking action: Japeth Aguilar.
The high-flying former Ateneo de Manila University star is turning this finals showdown into his show by making a living out of swatting enemy missiles.
Aguilar is averaging 3.6 blocks per contest that puts the Kings two wins away from claiming their third Governors’ Cup crown in four years.
More than that, his gallant effort at the paint crushed the confidence of Meralco big men led by a prolific inside operator in import Allen Durham.
Still, Aguilar brushed off the credit, saying that he draws his defensive muscles from his teammates.
“The reason why I’m successful on defense is because I’m confident that my teammates will help me out. It’s really a collective team effort,” the wiry 6-foot-9 Aguilar said, a well-known intimidator since his high school days at Mapua and college years at Ateneo.
“Since I started playing basketball, shot-blocking has always been my forte. I have been a defender from high school to college.”
“So there’s nothing special there. I’m just doing my role inside the court and use my strength, which is shot-blocking, to the fullest.”
In this finals series, Aguilar had turned the art of blocking into exact science.
He delivered a booming block in Game 1 when he thwarted the dunk of Durham in the final 11.3 seconds to seal the victory for the Kings, 91-87.
That rejection was the 575th of his career that moved him past Ricky Relosa at No. 15 in the league’s all-time shot-block list.
Then in Game 3, he swatted seven shots to register his second-best blocking performance. He also climbed the all-time list to No. 12 with 582 blocks, moving past Alvin Patrimonio (576), Abe King (580) and Poch Juinio (582).
Ginebra coach Tim Cone said Aguilar has been his pillar of strength underneath and his shot-blocking ability prompted the Kings to come up with good executions at the other end.
“It was a block party out there,” said Cone, the league’s most successful mentor with 21 PBA crowns.
“He has great timing and he gets off the floor so quick. He’s also long so you would thing that you got the shot off until he comes out of nowhere and blocks your attempt.”
Cone added that Aguilar’s defensive muscle was a product of hard work and perseverance.
“That’s something he has been working on through the years and I’m recognizing that it’s a fun skill for him,” Cone said, stressing that Aguilar is the best in the business when it comes to blocking shots.
“Blocking shots is a big turnaround play. I don’t think there’s anybody in the league that’s a better weak side defender than Japeth,” he said.
“He decided Game 1 with a block and he decided Game 3 with seven blocks because our team’s anchor was really defense.”