MANILA, Philippines – This time around, there was no collapse for Barangay Ginebra as they made the big plays down the stretch to hold off San Miguel Beer, 107-99, and secure a quarterfinals berth in the 2017 PBA Commissioner's Cup on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
After squandering a 16-point second-half lead in a loss to Rain or Shine last Friday, the Gin Kings got off to a quick start but struggled with foul trouble to their big men in the final stretch, allowing the Beermen to come too close for comfort.
But as he has done several times before, import Justin Brownlee came through with big plays in crunch time to bail out the Gin Kings once more.
"We caught them a little flat in the beginning of the game, and we were able to take advantage of that," Ginebra coach Tim Cone said afterward. "We carried that pretty much the whole game, but our bigs got into foul trouble, and suddenly, we're playing on our heels."
"But we came out energized. We were shooting the ball well, and we were energized after the loss to Rain or Shine. It's a big win for us… Hopefully, we can keep pushing forward," he added.
With LA Tenorio waxing hot early, the Gin Kings seized a 15-3 advantage with 7:46 left to play in the first quarter, and led by as much as 20 points, 38-18, at the 8:47 mark of the second period.
The Beermen were able to cut the lead to 10 points, 39-49, late in the first half, but Tenorio beat the buzzer for a triple that gave the Gin Kings a 52-39 spread at the break.
San Miguel again went on a rally in the third quarter, coming to within nine points, 52-61, as import Charles Rhodes went on a scoring spree.
Again, however, Ginebra had an answer. Buckets by Joe Devance and Tenorio sparked a 9-1 run that pushed the lead back to 17 points, 70-53, and they settled for an 80-65 advantage at the end of the third frame.
San Miguel showed plenty of fight in the final period, as Arwind Santos began to wax hot from beyond the arc. The Beermen unleashed a stunning 17-3 run in the fourth quarter, capped by back-to-back triples from Santos and Alex Cabagnot, to turn what was once a comfortable Ginebra lead into just a three-point game, 93-90, with still 2:47 left to play.
Fortunately for Ginebra, Brownlee was there to come to their rescue. The versatile import connected on a baseline jumper, then drew a foul on Chris Ross on the break that infuriated the SMB guard, earning him a technical foul. Brownlee made both free throws, and Tenorio drained the technical charity, giving Ginebra some breathing room, 98-90, with two minutes left.
Lay-ups by Brownlee and Devance then restored a 10-point Ginebra lead, 102-92, with 46 seconds to play, and SMB faded from there.
"Good perseverance for our guys tonight," said Cone. "We blew leads against Rain or Shine as well. We blew the lead tonight, but we managed to keep it."
With the victory, Ginebra improved to 6-2, while dropping San Miguel to the same record. The two teams are tied for third and fourth in the league standings, and both remain in the hunt for a twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals.
Tenorio finished with 20 points, eight assists, and six rebounds for Ginebra, while Brownlee had 34 points on top of 12 boards. Scottie Thompson was again all over the stat sheet, tallying 18 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
Rhodes scored 26 points for San Miguel, and Cabagnot added 20 markers. June Mar Fajardo had a double-double of 19 points and 13 rebounds.
But the Beermen struggled with their offense, converting only 39% of their attempts, including only 10 of 35 three-pointers.
GINEBRA 107 - Brownlee 34, Tenorio 20, Thompson 18, Devance 16, Aguilar 5, Ferrer 5, Mercado 3, Marcelo 2, Cruz 2, Caguioa 2, Ellis 0.
SAN MIGUEL 99 - Rhodes 26, Cabagnot 20, Santos 19, Fajardo 13, Lassiter 10, Ross 7, Espinas 4, Heruela 0, Semerad 0.
Quarter scores: 31-15, 52-39, 80-65, 107-99.
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