Ginebra hangs on, turns back B-MegBy Musong R. Castillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Barangay Ginebra, a team that thrives in dire, almost hopeless situations, is at it again.
Facing elimination, the Gin Kings played with reckless abandon on both ends last night and pounded out an 88-79 Game 3 win over B-Meg that cut the Llamados’ PBA Commissioner’s Cup Final Four lead to 2-1.
After missing his first three triple tries, Nino Canaleta drilled in his next four, all in the fourth period, and sent the overflow Cuneta Astrodome crowd into a frenzy, while Mike Cortez was brilliant and finished with his first PBA career triple double.
“Maybe it was because of the sense of urgency,” Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen said when asked why his Kings were brilliant all of a sudden. “It was definitely better compared to the first game (of the series).
“We cannot complain about our (present) situation,” he said of the 0-2 deficit that stared them in the face before the game. “It was our own doing. But once we build our character, it will give us hope.”
Only three teams in the long history of the PBA have ever come back from a 0-2 deficit in a best-of-five series and Ginebra was the last to do it in the 2010 Philippine Cup quarterfinals opposite Talk ‘N Text.
And if last night’s game was any indication, the Gin Kings certainly have the tools to pull it off again even with leading local scorer Mark Caguioa out for the rest of the series.
Canaleta, who has stepped up to become the team’s new gunslinger, finished with 23 points as he set up the whirlwind Ginebra finish.
Cortez added 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, capping the biggest night of his career with five straight points in a 21-second span that doused water on the last of B-Meg’s rallies, 83-74, with 2:12 left.
Jay-Jay Helterbrand also flashed vintage form, winding up with 12 points, seven of them in the fourth period as Ginebra regained momentum going into the fourth game tomorrow at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Ginebra also shut down Denzel Bowles, who finished with just 11 points on 3-of-14 shooting. Coming into the halfway point of the third period, Bowles, who took a 21-point, 12.5-rebound average into the game, only had a free throw to show.
JC Intal led the Llamados with 18 points, 12 of them in the final half as he helped keep B-Meg in the thick of the fight before Canaleta’s fourth-quarter explosion.
Marc Pingris, a vital cog in the B-Meg defense, was thrown out with 10:24 left in the second period after incurring his second technical foul when he practically gave Canaleta a clothesline in trying to stop a fastbreak play.
Ginebra took leads of as big as 11 points in the first half, was dragged into a nip-and-tuck game in the third before opening up a 78-65 lead after Canaleta hit three straight treys that made it 78-65 with 6:59 to go.
GINEBRA 88—Canaleta 23, Cortez 17, Ababou 13, Helterbrand 12, Hatfield 9, Vroman 8, Labagala 3, Raymundo 3, J. Wilson 0, Mamaril 0.
B-MEG 79—Intal 18, Simon 15, Yap 14, Bowles 11, Urbiztondo 8, Devance 7, Reavis 6, Barroca 0, Burtscher 0, Villanueva 0, De Ocampo 0.
Quarters: 17-12, 37-37, 61-57, 88-79