MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE) Barangay Ginebra clawed its way out from a double-digit hole to overpower Meralco, 110-95, and claim its first win of the 2019 PBA Commissioner's Cup on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
After trailing by as much as 15 points in the first half, the Gin Kings emerged from the break with renewed fire and proceeded to dominate the second half of the game.
Justin Brownlee had 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists, while Japeth Aguilar put up 19 points and Art dela Cruz added 16 markers. Sol Mercado earned Player of the Game honors after putting up 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting on top of 8 assists and 5 boards.
Ginebra outscored Meralco, 39-17, in the pivotal third quarter to turn the game around as they rebounded from an overtime loss to Blackwater last Friday.
"We played as badly as we could have had in the first half," noted Ginebra coach Tim Cone, who gave credit to his staff for doing the bulk of the work in the second half of the game. "We looked as if we didn't have any fight. It was so discouraging."
"They talked about it at halftime, and they came out and played with so much fight in the second half. I couldn't be prouder of this group, in terms of turning that game around," he added.
The Gin Kings had few answers for Meralco import Gani Lawal in the first half, as he went off for 22 points to tow the Bolts to a 54-43 lead at the break.
The third quarter was an entirely different story, however. Ginebra shot a blistering 16-of-20 from the field in the frame, while limiting Meralco to just 7-of-20 shooting. Mercado, Greg Slaughter, and Scottie Thompson combined for 18 points, as Ginebra's defense scored the first 12 points of the quarter.
"It's like when we were in the locker room, we turned off the lights, and when we turned on the lights, we were a completely different team," said Cone.
Meralco came within one point in the fourth quarter, thanks to triples by Baser Amer and Trevis Jackson, as well as a pair of free throws by Lawal that made it 82-81 with still 10:20 left.
But the Gin Kings were re-energized when Brownlee assisted Thompson on an alley-oop lay-up, before scoring himself. A huge slam dunk by Aguilar off a lob by Mercado capped a 10-2 run that put the Gin Kings back in control, 92-83.
The lead grew to as large as 16 points, 108-92, after back-to-back three-pointers by Mercado and Aguilar with just a minute left to play.
Lawal finished with 38 points and 20 rebounds, but was also responsible for 6 of Meralco's 15 turnovers. Amer, with 10 points, was the only other Bolt in double-digits. They shot only 39.1% from the field as a team while allowing Ginebra to convert 57.1% of their attempts.
Ginebra improved to 1-1 in the conference, while Meralco dropped to 1-2.
Ginebra 110 - Brownlee 27, Aguilar 19, Dela Cruz 16, Mercado 14, Thompson 11, Slaughter 8, Mariano 8, Tenorio 4, Ferrer 3, Cruz 0, Caperal 0.
Meralco 95 - Lawal 38, Amer 10, Newsome 8, Hodge 7, Salva 6, Pinto 6, Canaleta 6, De Ocampo 5, Hugnatan 4, Jackson 3, Tolomia 2, Quinto 0, Caram 0.Quarters: 16-28, 43-54, 82-71, 110-95.
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