IN A matchup of star-studded sides, Niño Canaleta, whose star has never consistently shone, gave Barangay Ginebra a huge lift that took the Gin Kings to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals.
Canaleta, who scored 25 points in his first six games in the tournament, matched that total last night and helped the Kings to a 93-84 come-from-behind win over B-Meg at the jampacked, animated Cuneta Astrodome.
“I am very happy for him, because all his hard work is paying off,” Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen, who described Canaleta as a workaholic, said. “Even if he has not been playing, he continues to work hard.”
The 6-foot-6 three-time Slam Dunk champion hit timely three-pointers, with his 14 second quarter points keeping the Kings in the thick of things before unloading nine fourth-quarter points that helped Ginebra cap its late winning streak with the No. 2 seed.
The Llamados, meanwhile, were reduced to a dangerous quarterfinal showdown against Meralco, which came back from a shaky 1-4 start in the conference to nail the last quarterfinal berth with a 102-98 victory over fading Powerade.
That series, as well as the Alaska-Barako Bull match-up, will start tomorrow at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.
Ginebra played so bad early on that Tanquingcen had to reach deep into his bench to whip out Canaleta, who hit three of his four triples in the first half to keep the Kings tugging at the coattails of the Llamados.
And from 74-all, Ginebra came up with a 19-10 finishing kick, with a 17-2 run settling the outcome, 91-76, heading into the final two minutes.
Jackson Vroman scattered 15 points, had the same number of rebounds and a lot of the intangibles that helped the Kings a great deal on the defensive end.
Mark Caguioa played just 22 minutes and left the game in the third quarter because of a busted right eyebrow he sustained after banging his head on the floor in one loose ball play.
Earl Barron and Mac Cardona each scored 18 second half points to fuel a firm stand by the B-Boys, who withstood several searing rallies by the Tigers as the young franchise advanced past the eliminations of an import-spiced tournament for the first time in two years.
“I am so happy to be a part of something like this,” coach Ryan Gregorio, who minced no words in pointing out to several articles that dismissed his team after a 1-4 start, told reporters.
“At 1-4, we could have packed our bags and gone home, we had so many excuses to give up,” said Gregorio.
Barron hit two free throws with 7.8 seconds left which eventually eliminated Powerade, a side that, in exact contrast to Meralco, looked like a sure bet to advance before dropping its last two games in the eliminations to fall in a KO match with the B-Boys.
MERALCO 102—Barron 33, Cardona 24, Taulava 16, Ross 12, Mercado 9, Hugnatan 4, Borboran 2, Macapagal 2, Timberlake 0.
POWERADE 98—Jones 20, Lassiter 20, David 20, Casio 14, Anthony 13, Kramer 5, Lingganay 4, Calimag 2, Vanlandingham 0, Allera 0, Cruz 0.
Quarters: 23-16, 45-43, 75-66, 102-98
GINEBRA 93—Canaleta 25, Vroman 15, Cortez 15, Ababou 9, Hatfield 8, Labagala 5, Caguioa 5, J. Wilson 4, Mamaril 4, W. Wilson 2, Raymundo 1, Villanueva 0.
B-MEG 84—Yap 18, Bowles 12, Simon 11, Urbiztondo 10, De Ocampo 10, Devance 9, Intal 6, Pingris 4, Barroca 2, Reavis 2, Acuna 0.
Quarters: 17-27, 40-43, 64-68, 93-84