|Ginebra import Vernon Macklin (22) scores a lay-up past Rain or Shine import Bruno Sundov (14) in their PBA Commissioner's Cup quarter-finals game Monday at the Araneta Coliseum. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE) Vernon Macklin, never at home shooting free throws, canned two pressure-packed charities with 11.1 seconds, then blocked a shot as Barangay Ginebra completed an improbable upset win over second seed Rain or Shine, pulling off an 81-79 squeaker in their sudden death to barge into the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Final Four at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
Paul Lee misfired what could have been a game-winning three-pointer then Jeff Chan flubbed two putbacks, enabling the Kings to escape with the thrilling win and score a follow-up on their 90-83 triumph last Sunday.
The win thus wiped out Rain or Shine’s twice-to-beat advantage and sent the Kings to the best-of-five semifinals against the Talk n Text Tropang Texters.
“They underestimated us with all the injuries to our players. They failed to anticipate what our big heart can do,” said Ginebra coach Alfrancis Chua.
“Yung morale at puso ng team nandyan. Tatalunin kami pero duduguin sila (The morale and heart of the team are there. They can beat us but they will have to bleed for every point),” added Chua.
The big reversal actually didn’t come as a surprise for the never-say-die Ginebra squad since last night’s caper was the third time that the Gin Kings had overcome twice-to-beat playoffs disadvantage.
“We started 0-4 in the conference then we won six straight. After the third win, we’re tested with Mark Caguioa going down with an injury. We built character that helped us win this game,” said Chua.
“Sent to the line in the dying seconds, I knew Macklin can make it,” added Chua.
Macklin, a 47-percent free-throw shooter, did make both, and the Kings went ahead to stay in the title hunt.
The Ginebra import actually scored the game’s last four points, capping a sterling all-around performance marked by 24 points, 16 rebounds and six assists.
He completely outplayed counterpart Bruno Sundov, who made only 12 markers and six boards.
But Sundov did pose some problems for the Kings in one stretch as he knocked down back-to-back treys in a crucial 14-6 run that shoved the E-Painters to a 79-76 lead with 2:40 left to play.
That, however, proved to be the E-Painters’ last crack at glory.
Lee muffed a three-pointer then Chan missed an uncontested follow-up shot as the Ginebra bench and the predominantly Gin King crowd erupted in frenzied celebration.