Barangay Ginebra got a huge lift from Jervy Cruz to frustrate Star, 93-86, Wednesday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum and tie their 2017 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals at 2-2.
Cruz pumped in a season-high 21 points, including a three-point play with 20.2 seconds left, to seal the game.
“All we did is just tie the series and make it a best-of-three. I thought our guys showed great resolve today,” said Ginebra head coach Tim Cone. “If they can beat us twice in a row, we can beat them twice in a row.”
“It was another defensive battle. We just seemed to have control most of the game but they just hung around,” Cone added. “We got a lot of help other than Japeth (Aguilar) and LA (Tenorio) today and that was huge for us. Dave (Marcelo), Jervy and Chris (Ellis) stepped up.”
The Gin Kings took an 85-75 lead after Cruz sank two free throws with 3:36 remaining but they still had to fend off the Hotshots, who had one last fight in them as they pulled to within five on a 3-pointer by Allein Maliksi with exactly a minute to play.
But Cruz, who came just two points shy of matching his career-high, was brilliant all game long and it was only fitting that he delivered the game-clinching basket.
Japeth Aguilar scored 12 of his 18 points in the final frame that went with 10 rebounds while Scottie Thompson was in his usual active self to finish with four points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Sol Mercado added nine points and three assists but made a bigger impact on the defensive end in neutralizing Paul Lee for the second straight game.
Lee averaged 17.5 points in the first two games of the semis but has only scored 16 points combined in Games 3 and 4. He only had nine points Wednesday night and shot just 4-of-14 from the field with six turnovers.
The 28-year-old Lee was also saddled with foul trouble and had to sit on the bench after picking up his fifth foul at the 14 seconds into the fourth period.
Allein Maliksi led the Hotshots with 18 points but he cooled off in the second half where he scored only five. Jio Jalalon added 16 points while Rafi Reavis notched a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Game 5 is on Friday night at Mall of Asia Arena.