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Gaping hole | Inquirer Sports

While harping on just how much of a difference-maker Stanley Pringle was on Sunday night, Tim Cone also pointed out how damaging Raymond Almazan’s absence was for Meralco.“Huge, huge, huge,” Cone swiftly answered when asked about how big a factor Almazan’s early exit in Game 3 of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals was for the Gin Kings, who won, 92-84, for a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven series at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.

“We talked about it at halftime. I said that ‘this is the time for Japeth (Aguilar) and Greg (Slaughter),’—that they can really make a lot of of forays into the paint and get some seals with Raymond out,” Cone said.

Almazan hurt his left knee after an awkward landing that also hit Ginebra’s LA Tenorio. He had to leave six minutes into the game to undergo an MRI test at Makati Medical Center.

The Kings and the Bolts were neck-and-neck in the first half, before Ginebra pulled away with leads of as many as 23 in the third period—a testament to just how vulnerable Meralco’s interior had become without one of its best defensive men.

Aguilar reprised his solid performances in the first two games, scoring 23 points that went with seven blocks—Meralco had a grand total of two swats as a team.

Pringle also made his presence felt. Without the usual resistance in the paint, Ginebra’s dynamo had his way inside, pouring 17 of his total 21 points in the third, helping push the Kings out of reach.

“It was a big difference. I mean, it was what, a one-point game at the half? Then we got up by 20 and ended up beating them? Obviously he’s a presence. Or, his lack of presence was really felt,” said Cone of Almazan.

Meralco coach Norman Black said such a loss, without a doubt, took the wind out of his squad.

“It seemed to affect them [in a good way] going to the third quarter. Ginebra did a good job of jumping on top of us immediately, taking advantage of it, and taking control of the game,” Black said.

The lanky big man remains day-to-day as the Bolts await the official reading of Almazan’s MRI test, Black and team manager Paolo Trillo told the Inquirer in separate messages.

“He’s been playing great. Anytime you lose a player the caliber of Raymond, it’s definitely going to hurt your team,” Meralco import Allen Durham said. INQ

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