Semifinal stunner from NorthPort
It was just so uncharacteristic for Barangay Ginebra San Miguel to quit rather than finish a fight given its famous “never say die” battle cry.
But the unwavering fire from import Michael Qualls and Garvo Lanete forced Ginebra coach Tim Cone to give up its semifinal opener against
NorthPort in the PBA Governors’ Cup with still five minutes remaining on Saturday.
With the Batang Pier opening a 104-78 lead, Cone started pulling out his first stringers in a gesture of surrender totally unexpected from the coach of the Gilas Pilipinas team that captured a 13th straight Southeast Asian Game title only last Tuesday, and who, ironically, was celebrating his 62nd birthday.
The final score was 124-90 with the winning margin a franchise high for NorthPort, which barged into the semifinals for only the second time since joining the league in 2012 by becoming the fourth No. 8 team in the eliminations to oust the No. 1 squad (NLEX) in the quarterfinal playoffs.
Qualls, who joined NorthPort only in its seventh game of the tournament, completely outshone Ginebra’s resident import Justin Brownlee by firing 38 points, 22 of them in the first half, which the Batang Pier took at 51-39. Brownlee wound up with just 24.
Lanete, traded by Meralco in favor of a 2020 second round draft pick by NorthPort, came off the bench late in the third quarter to scatter 24 points, 21 of them in the last period.
Lanete’s first of six three-pointers came in a 15-6 counterattack also starring Christian Standhardinger and Nico Elorde that lifted Batang Pier to a 78-68 margin at the end of the third period after the Gin Kings had rallied from 41-57 and came within 62-63.
NorthPort coach Pido Jarencio said the Gin Kings just had an off-day and added he expects Ginebra to fight harder in Game 2 of the best-of-five semifinal series on Monday.
He noted that Standhardinger, his prized acquisition from San Miguel Beer squad that Ginebra eliminated in the quarterfinals to end its Grand Slam bid, was still tying to regain his bearings after his Gilas stint along with Gin Kings Stanley Pringle, Japeth Aguilar, LA Tenorio and Greg Slaughter.
The other semifinal pairing pitting the TNT KaTropa and the Meralco Bolts was going on at press time on Sunday night.
TNT is going for a second straight title stint after losing the Commissioner’s Cup crown to SMB, while Meralco seeks another crack at the championship that Ginebra captured at its expense in 2016 and 2017. INQ