Gin Kings refuse to be cowed by Bolts’ physicality, forge rubber match
Coach Tim Cone saw Barangay Ginebra match Meralco’s physicality right from the onset, resulting in keeping a roller coaster campaign in the PBA Philippine Cup alive with a hard-fought victory on Friday.
“It wasn’t for boys today, it was a man’s game today,” Cone said after the Gin Kings forced a deciding third game in their quarterfinal series against the Bolts with a 94-87 win before a good-sized crowd at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan City.
Bodies were all over the floor in the testy game, but Ginebra was unfazed with some of their key players showing up just when the going got rough.
LA Tenorio shook off a scoreless showing in a 93-82 defeat in Game 1 with his quarterbacking that played an integral role in Ginebra pulling away in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Also staying alive was NLEX, which carved out a 90-77 win over Magnolia to set their version of a decider.
The Road Warriors were on target right from the start, as a 23-point halftime lead proved too much for the Hotshots to overcome. Game 3 of this series is on Sunday.
Japeth Aguilar, Christian Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle also made key baskets in the fourth that foiled Meralco’s first crack at finally winning a series against the team that gave plenty of playoff heartbreaks to the Bolts.
“It was physical, it was rough and tumble, there was blood on the floor,” Cone continued. “They’re trying to do something that they haven’t done against us, and we know that.
“We have so much respect for them, and they’re showing their desire by the way they came out and playing us physically, diving all around the floor. They’re showing the great desire that they had.”
That’s why Cone is bracing for another bruising battle in the decider when the two teams face off one final time this conference at Mall of Asia Arena also on Sunday night for the right to face San Miguel Beer in a best-of-seven semifinals.
“For us to come out and play well in Game 3, we’re gonna have to match that physicality. That’s really the name of the game in the series,” he said.
Tenorio had 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals, numbers that backed up an all-around play at the point guard spot. His playmaking set up some baskets for Standhardinger, Aguilar and Pringle during the final period when Ginebra kept Meralco at bay.
Aguilar topscored with 25 points, two of which came off a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Scottie Thompson almost two minutes to go that made it 89-82 for the Gin Kings.
Standhardinger had 15 points, brushing off a pregame incident with Meralco’s Franky Johnson that may have contributed to the tension after tipoff, while Pringle scored Ginebra’s last five to secure the outcome.
Cliff Hodge veered away from his usual energy guy role and was offensive-minded and led the Bolts with 25 points despite a bloody mouth that came after being elbowed by Prince Caperal with 2:08 left in the first quarter.
He and seldom-used Alvin Pasaol, who scored 14 after making a total of 10 throughout the conference, helped the Bolts fight back in the third after the Gin Kings took a 56-45 lead at the half.