With Japeth Aguilar sidelined with an MCL injury, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel has had to rely heavily on Christian Standhardinger as their main big man in this 2023 PBA Governors’ Cup. The Filipino-German forward, who has never been one to back down from a challenge since his PBA debut in 2018, is proving to be more than ready for the added responsibility.

The momentum from Ginebra’s run to last January’s PBA Commissioner’s Cup title, where he was named the Finals Most Valuable Player, has clearly carried over for Standhardinger in this conference. He is averaging 22.6 points on 63.3% field goal shooting, 10 rebounds, and 5.6 assists through 14 games so far in the Governor’s Cup and is leading the statistical points tally in the Best Player of the Conference race.

This has been his best all-around conference since the 2019 PBA Governor’s Cup where he won his first Best Player of the Conference award while he was still with the Northport Batang Pier.

More importantly, the outstanding play of the 33-year-old Standhardinger has lifted Ginebra to the semifinals of this Governor’s Cup where they took a 121-112 victory over the San Miguel Beermen to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-five series.

Standhardinger, as he has all conference long, led the way in the win with a dominant 33 points on 13-of-19 field goals, 10 rebounds, five assists, and a steal. Ginebra also received a morale boost from team captain LA Tenorio who was recently diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer but still sat on the team’s bench during the match.

San Miguel had no answer for Standhardinger with six-time PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo still sidelined with an MCL injury that he suffered earlier this month while competing in the East Asia Super League.

Despite the absence of Fajardo, the Beermen refused to back down and it took them less than three minutes to unleash a 15-0 rally that tied the game in the early goings of the fourth quarter. However, Jamie Malonzo responded for Ginebra with a three-pointer before Standhardinger scored four straight points to douse the rally and give them back control of the match.

Malonzo wound up scoring 11 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter and he also finished with six rebounds, four assists, and three steals. The 26-year-old forward also hit five three-pointers during the match and when he hits his shots at this rate, it opens up the floor for Standhardinger and makes this Ginebra team almost impossible to beat.

In the other semifinal match-up, the TNT Tropang Giga continued their dominant run with a 110-80 win over the Meralco Bolts to take a 1-0 lead. The Tropang Giga, who topped the elimination round with a 10-1 record, established a 12-point lead by the end of the first quarter and did not look back from that point on.

TNT import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was dominant yet again, finishing with a triple double–22 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists–along with two steals, two blocks, and zero turnovers. Standhardinger’s Best Player of the Conference rivals RR Pogoy and Calvin Oftana chipped in as well, adding 21 and 15 points, respectively.

The second games for the Governor’s Cup semifinals will be held this Sunday, March 26, at the Ynares Center. Ginebra and TNT are looking to take a 2-0 lead which will put them just one win away from setting up a best-of-seven Finals match-up.