Back on the throne
Japeth Aguilar had already made an imprint in the Finals series with several huge defensive plays. He tossed in a little offense this time—slam-dunking most of them late in the game—as he helped Barangay Ginebra emphatically close out Meralco and rule the PBA Governors’ Cup on Friday night.
Aguilar scored 13 of his team-best 25 points in the last quarter and helped the Kings tear away for a 105-93 Game 5 victory that sealed a 3-1 series win for Ginebra, which won a third season-ending crown in the last four years—all against the Bolts.
“I just wanted to do everything I could for my teammates,” Aguilar said after a roaring performance that delighted a packed Mall of Asia Arena.
Justin Brownlee added 24 points for Ginebra and helped the Kings extricate themselves from the game’s final deadlock at 77 in the third quarter and give them an 84-77 lead. The Bolts rallied early in the fourth, inching to within a bucket twice, before Aguilar cut loose to help the Kings pull away.
The high-flying national team regular was named Honda PBA Press Corps Finals MVP after averaging 17.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.4 blocks a game in the series, where his high-flying contributions went unmatched by anyone from the Meralco side outside of Allen Durham.
Durham and Baser Amer got the Bolts flying out of the gates in the first half, burying the Gin Kings under double-digit heaps several times, but Ginebra made a big run to trim the lead to just 40-46 going into the break.
“That little run gave us a lift,” Ginebra coach Tim Cone said. “I felt at halftime when we brought the lead down to six, that we had the chance to win this game.”
“We were very sluggish early.”
Durham finished with 29 points, 21 rebounds and eight assists, but the Bolts, who did not suit up Raymond Almazan in Game 5 after the injured center’s courageous Game 4 performance simply lacked the firepower to match the Kings, especially when the likes of Stanley Pringle and LA Tenorio joined in the scoring fray late in the game.
Pringle finished with 17, Scottie Thompson added 14 while Tenorio chipped in 12.
Even Cone admitted Almazan’s injury really tipped the scales to his team’s favor in the series.
“We just had to go out and take advantage of whatever we could,” said Cone, who won his 22nd PBA title, the most in league history by a mile.
Barangay Ginebra, meanwhile, notched its 12th franchise crown.
Cone paid tribute to his wards, saying: “I get a lot of credit, but these guys do all the work.”
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