Barangay Ginebra found holes in the TNT defense inside the paint during the most crucial times on Sunday night, and the Gin Kings, who were seconds away from losing, took the crucial head start in their PBA Philippine Cup title playoffs after a 100-94 overtime win.
The Kings forged overtime with a neat play for rookie Arvin Tolentino, and then finished off the Tropang Giga in the extra session with great plays on both ends, with a Japeth Aguilar dunk with under 20 seconds left doing nothing but remind the enemy how they were finished with a flourish going into Game 2.
“I don’t think my heart can take this. It was an incredible back and forth,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone, who is in his sixth title series stint with the Kings and is looking to win for the fourth time after titles in three import-laden conferences.
Cone’s entire starting unit scored in twin digits, including Tolentino, who had 14 points in a 32-minute stint.
“No one person is going to beat (TNT),” Cone said of the balanced scoring attack. “Everybody stepped up and that’s how you need to play against that team.”
LA Tenorio was the one who found Tolentino with five seconds left in regulation to knot it all up at 92. He also had an assist to Aljon Mariano with 51 seconds left in extension for a 98-94 lead that practically knocked the wind out of the Tropang Giga’s sail.
Aguilar then had that dunk—something which the Tropang Giga will remember before going to bed—to highlight a scintillating offensive night.
“It was a very hard-fought game, just like in the Meralco (semifinal series),” Aguilar said in a televised interview. “We just worked hard for the victory.”
This loss will be a pretty difficult one to swallow for the Tropang Giga, who were 91-90 ahead with 12.2 seconds left and Bobby Ray Parks taking two free throws after being fouled by Stanley Pringle.
But Parks, who was a perfect 3-for-3 before that, split his charities and gave Ginebra just the opening it needed.
TNT was never the same in the extension, scoring only after the first 3:40 and never again finding the hoop after that.
Still, Cone gave praise to where it is due.
“I know they are not going to be happy about it (loss), but they should be proud with the way they played,” Cone said of TNT, which won its last two games against Phoenix Super LPG to make the title series.
Aguilar went on to lead the Kings with 25 points that went with 16 rebounds, Pringle 24, seven boards and seven assists, and Tenorio wound up with 12 points and 10 feeds in a brilliant quarterbacking job.
Scottie Thompson, the hero for the Kings in the title series slot-clinching win over Meralco, scored 15 points that went with nine rebounds and five assists, as the overall Ginebra effort will continue to make the TNT coaching staff guessing as to who they would need to keep an eye on come the next game.
Game 2 will be on Wednesday also at Angeles University Foundation powered by Smart 5G, and the Tropang Giga would need to put this behind them if they want to avoid falling into a 0-2 hole, which could prove too deep to climb out of against a team like the Kings.
Parks led the Tropang Giga with 20 points with RR Pogoy contributing 19. INQ
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