Despite without Japeth Aguilar in the entire second half, Barangay Ginebra held off Blackwater, 99-90, for a first successive triumphs that lifted the Gin Kings up to joint third in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome Friday night.
The Gin Kings bucked the early exit of Aguilar on a muscle strain and withstood the Elite’s determined challenge to end a roller-coaster win-loss-win-loss ride in the tourney and gain a share of third place
with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, the Phoenix Fuel Masters and the TNT KaTropa Texters at 5-4.
Jervy Cruz, LA Tenorio, Joe Devance, Scottie Thompson and Dave Marcelo picked up the slack on Aguilar’s ouster and the Kings sustained a good flow en route to a second straight win following an 83-72 drubbing of
Meralco on the road in Iloilo City the last time out.
It was Ginebra’s first back-to-back victories in the season or since winning the 2016 Governors Cup over Meralco. More importantly, the Kings rallied back into contention for the Top Two that reward twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals. They need to sweep their last two games against the Fuel Masters and the
NLEX Road Warriors to get a possible shot at No. 2 spot.
Falling short in its upset bid against Ginebra, Blackwater dropped down to seventh place at 5-5.
Aguilar was doing well, having made his 14th marker on a two-handed jam on transition play when he hurt his right hand on an awkward fall with 3:30 left in the second period and Ginebra leading at 44-37.
The 6-foot-9 center was immediately attended by their staff in the dugout and applied an ice pack. The team doctor said Aguilar may just have suffered a strained muscle on his right hand.
The Kings faced anxious moments with Aguilar confined on the bench, losing a pair of 15-point spreads early in the second half on Blackwater’s chase in the fourth quarter.
But after the Elite pulled even at 82-all, Sol Mercado, Thompson, Tenorio and Devance teamed up in a key run as Ginebra regained control at 90-82 and went on to pull off the crucial win.
“That team has talent,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone of Mac Belo and his teammates.
“Coach Leo (Isaac) has really got them playing to their strengths. We just had a little more depth.” Cruz and Marcelo ably filled in for Aguilar, with the reserved Ginebra frontliners combining for 29 points.
Then there were Tenorio, Devance and Thompson who all churned out sterling all-around numbers.
Thompson had a near triple-double performance with 15 rebounds, 13 points and seven assists, Tenorio contributed 15 markers six assists, four steals and four rebounds while Devance piled up 13 points, nine
rebounds and seven dish-offs.
GINEBRA 99 – Cruz 16, Tenorio 15, Aguilar 14, Thompson 13, Devance 13, Marcelo 13, Ellis 6, Mercado 5, Ferrer 2, Caguioa 2, Taha 0.
BLACKWATER 90 – Sumang 20, Belo 16, Aguilar 16, Sena 14, Dela Cruz 7, Gamalinda 6, Miranda 5, Buenafe 4, Pascual 2, Ababou 0, Pinto 0.
Quarters: 25-23, 53-40, 80-71, 99-90.
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