Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone talked about just how much of a factor exhaustion would play on both teams after coming from a PBA Governors’ Cup Finals road game in Lucena City just two nights before. But that didn’t seem true for Stanley Pringle, who erupted for 17 points in the third period to help the Gin Kings pull away and hammer out a 92-84 decision over Meralco on Sunday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao where Ginebra snapped a 1-1 tie with conviction.
“Tonight, he got loose. And when he gets loose, that’s what you see,” Cone said of Pringle, who finished with 21 points, five rebounds and four assists as the crowd darlings regained the lead in the best-of-seven duel.
“He’s really a difference-maker,” Cone added.
The Kings, before a crowd of 16,001, enjoyed leads as many as 23 points before weathering a Meralco rally in the fourth.
Japeth Aguilar was again a force on defense, registering seven blocks to go with his 23 points, which was second only to Justin Brownlee’s team-best 24. Meralco got the goods from Chris Newsome and Allen Durham, who scored 24 and 23, respectively.
But what a deflated Norman Black couldn’t help but admit was just how big of a gut punch losing Raymond Almazan early was for the Bolts.
“We came out of the locker room [for the third period] very flat. We found out that we will miss Raymond for the rest of the night and probably for the remainder of the series,” Black said.
“We lacked energy and intensity going into the third quarter. I don’t know how much we were affected by the news, but it was evident in that quarter,” he added.
Almazan landed awkwardly late in the opening frame and was carried off the floor and back to the team dugout. Black said the big man, who has been a steady presence for the Bolts in the interior, will undergo MRI tests at Makati Medical Center.
“He couldn’t move his leg. As a former player myself, that’s not a good sign,” Black said. INQ
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