Ginebra makes PH Cup Finals, beats Star in Game 7
Sol Mercado capped off his superb semifinals stint with a sterling Game 7 as Barangay Ginebra knocked off Star, 89-76, in their 2017 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals showdown Tuesday night at Mall of Asia Arena.
Mercado led all scorers with 23 points to go along with four rebounds and five assists for the Gin Kings, who clinched their second straight finals appearance after winning the Governors’ Cup crown last season.
“Our guys did a good job pushing and pushing and they kept battling and battling,” said Ginebra head coach Tim Cone. “I thought it was truly an amazing series.”
The 32-year-old Mercado hit 4-of-6 from long range but his biggest contribution was on the defensive end where he locked down the Hotshots’ go-to guy Paul Lee from Game 3 onwards.
After playing hero in Games 1 and 2, Lee was silenced for the remainder of the series and he ended up playing his worst in Game 7 where he was held scoreless in the second half to finish with four points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field.
“That was our target, basically. Paul was No. 1, Ping and Maliksi—those are the three guys that we wanna target defensively. The job that Sol was able to do one-on-one kept us in our defensive game plan,” Cone said. “He was definitely the impact guy on defense.”
“He has the ability to get to the rim and hit a bunch of 3-pointers this time. He did that in the finals last conference too and he’s a big moment player and without a doubt if you put the numbers up, he was our MVP,”
Ginebra arranged a best-of-seven championship showdown with defending champion San Miguel Beer. Game 1 of the Finals tips off on Friday night at MOA Arena.
LA Tenorio was also instrumental with 21 points and five assists. He was 8-of-8 from the free throw and his pair of freebies extended the Gin Kings lead back to 10, 84-74, with 1:41 left.
Ginebra looked well on its way to a blowout after taking a 33-18 lead early in the second quarter but Star, led by Allein Maliksi and Marc Pingris, found its way back, trailing by only four after three quarters.
But it was all Ginebra in the fourth quarter with Mercado, Tenorio and Aguilar scoring timely baskets to keep Star out of reach.
Maliksi had a team-high 22 points but he did not score in the final 12 minutes while Pingris collected 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists.