MANILA, Philippines – Barangay Ginebra struggled most of the way, but still put enough plays together to turn back the Star Hotshots, 105-101, in another heart-stopping edition of the Manila Clasico on Sunday in front of over 15,000 fans at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Gin Kings squandered a chance to win the game in regulation after Japeth Aguilar fouled Star import Malcolm Hill on a three-point shot, and saw the young reinforcement calmly sink all of his charities to force overtime.
But Ginebra recovered in the extra period, with LA Tenorio knocking down a pivotal three-pointer, and Joe Devance and Justin Brownlee coming through with crucial free throws before Aguilar made up for his mistake with the tip-in that sealed the game with 5.3 seconds left.
"Classic Clasico, right?" Ginebra coach Tim Cone said after the game, which saw the Gin Kings improve to 6-1 in the 2017 PBA Governors' Cup.
"That was a tough game," he also said. "At the end of the game, our guys were just absolutely exhausted. That's a really quick team… it's a really tough match-up for us."
"We struggled with our free throw shooting, we struggled with our rebounding, and we weren't finishing shots well. It wasn't that of a well-played game, but we hung around, and I felt we stole it because they outplayed us throughout the game," Cone admitted.
Brownlee came up with another tremendous effort, tallying 33 points on top of 10 rebounds along with five assists. Joe Devance added a near triple-double of 17 points, 11 boards, and eight assists, while Scottie Thompson added seven points, 10 boards, and six dimes for the Gin Kings.
Ginebra connected on 48% of its shots, and had a 66-57 rebounding advantage over the Hotshots. Nevertheless, it was far from an easy victory by Ginebra as Star overwhelmed them with their tenacity and their pressure defense, which forced the Gin Kings to cough up the ball 23 times, leading to 29 turnover points.
"Chito (Victolero) came out and had a really good game plan," said Cone. "We talked about it at half time and we battled through it, but it was a struggle all the way through."
In a game that featured 29 lead changes and 16 deadlocks, neither team could get any sort of momentum heading into crunch time. A transition dunk by Hill put Star on top, 90-86, with 2:18 left, but Brownlee sliced the deficit to two points with an easy lay-up, and Devance connected on a booming triple to push Ginebra on top, 91-90, with 1:32 left.
A costly no-call on a probable goal-tending by Greg Slaughter cost the Hotshots an and-1, but Rafi Reavis nevertheless knocked down two charities to snatch the lead back for Star, 92-91, with 52.9 seconds left.
Brownlee again came to Ginebra's rescue, with his hook shot making it 93-92 with 38.9 seconds left. The Hotshots were unable to convert their chances on the other end, but Ginebra also wasted several opportunities to ice the game as Thompson, Devance, and Brownlee combined to miss four of six free throws in the final 22 seconds of the contest.
Those missed charities proved crucial when Aguilar fouled Hill on a triple try with still six-tenths of a second remaining in overtime, and Cone could only watch as the young import made all three of his free throws.
"Back to the drawing board on free throw shooting," the coach sighed after the game.
Star drew first blood in OT off Paul Lee and Reavis, but the Gin Kings simply refused to let the game slip away. Hill tied the game for the last time on a transition lay-up that made it 101-all, but a few possessions later, he gave up a foul that sent Brownlee to the line.
This time, the import made sure to sink both shots, pushing the Gin Kings ahead for good. Devance would later add a free throw of his own, this time off Hill's sixth and final foul, before Aguilar's tip-in of a Brownlee miss sealed the deal.
"It's unfortunate that we gave up a foul in the last second," said Cone. "But our guys are veteran guys… they overcame that, and they put a good overtime together."
"We gave ourselves a chance, and lo and behold, we pulled it out," he added.
With the hard-fought victory, Ginebra assured itself of a spot in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Star dropped to 4-2, losing back-to-back games after opening the tournament with four consecutive victories.
Hill had a 28-point, 12-rebound effort for Star before fouling out with under a minute left in overtime. Lee added 22 points, including a bunch of triples in the third and fourth quarters, but he went cold in crunch time and missed a trifecta with 29.9 seconds left in overtime that could have given them the lead.
Still, Star managed to push the game to an extra period despite shooting only 36% from the field. They were helped along by their nine three-pointers, as well as a perfect 16-of-16 shooting at the charity stripe.
Ginebra now has a 7-3 record over Star in their Manila Clasico match-ups this season, and have won the last four games in their heated rivalry.
GINEBRA 105 - Brownlee 33, Devance 17, Slaughter 17, Tenorio 13, Aguilar 12, Thompson 7, Ferrer 4, Taha 2, Mercado 0, Cruz 0.
STAR 101 - Hill 28, Lee 22, Barroca 14, Ramos 11, Sangalang 10, Reavis 10, Maliksi 4, Jalalon 2, Melton 0, Simon 0, Pingris 0.
Quarter scores: 21-25, 40-45, 73-70, 95-95, 105-101.
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