Joe Devance bungled an easy layup that could have sealed the win for Barangay Ginebra outright.
But that was the only lowlight for the quick-footed big man in a game-long brilliance that spearheaded the Gin Kings’ scrambling 106-103 triumph over the TNT KaTropa in their PBA Governors’ Cup semifinal playoffs Friday night.
“I can’t believe I missed that layup,” said Devance as the defending champion Gin Kings moved to the cusp of the finals.
The boo-boo was eventually forgivable.
Relentlessly jostling for positioning in the paint, Devance got away with 20 points, six of them at crunch time that helped stop the rampaging Glen Rice Jr. and the Texters from pulling off a reversal.
With Rice flooring the pedal all night, the Texters had the Gin Kings on the ropes before a couple of miscues allowed Ginebra to eventually take control of their best-of-five series, 2-1.
“It’s a very emotional game and I’m just thankful we got the win,” said Devance.
The Kings need one more win to forge a Finals rematch with Meralco, which swept Star in the other semifinal bracket.
It was a sorry defeat for TNT, especially since Rice came out with a monster game, posting a career-high 44 points aside from grabbing 20 rebounds and dishing off six assists.
The former Washington Wizard buried long threes and converted his aerial gymnastics to bedevil the Kings.
At one point in the first, rugged wingman Kevin Ferrer went physical on Rice to somehow force the TNT import out of rhythm.
Emotions further flared when Kelly Williams was slapped with a questionable foul on Greg Slaughter.
It triggered a war of words between TNT coach Nash Racela and Ginebra governor Alfrancis Chua from the court to the dugout.
PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa and media bureau chief Willie Marcial stepped in to pacify the two officials. Olsen Racela, the Ginebra assistant coach and Nash’s brother, also intervened to prevent things from escalating.