By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings staved off being pushed to the brink of elimination in the PBA Philippine Cup after beating the defending champions San Miguel Beermen, 95-87, in Game Three of their best-of-seven semifinal series on Tuesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena to cut their deficit to two games to one.
Pushed to a must-win situation after dropping the first two games of their Philippine Basketball Association semifinal series, the Kings delivered on the back of steady play and composure of their players all throughout the game to finally barge into the win column.
The Kings had a good start as their frontcourt of Japeth Aguilar, Prince Caperal and Joe Devance made their presence felt on offense.
They sprinted to a 19-8 lead two-thirds of the way in the first quarter before Marcio Lassiter and the Beermen narrowed the gap as the period wore on.
The score was at 19-15 at the end of the first canto with Barangay Ginebra still ahead.
In the second period, offense further picked up for both teams.
San Miguel came within three points, 25-22, at the 8:55 mark of the frame.
But the Kings responded with a 7-0 blast in the next two minutes to give themselves further breathing room, 32-22.
The Beermen continued with their attack thereafter only to see the Kings stand their ground and maintain control all the way to the halfway juncture of the match, 45-39.
Barangay Ginebra continued to hold sway as the third canto got under way, outscoring San Miguel, 19-13, in the first six minutes to take a 64-52 advantage.
Forced to play sans starting point guard Chris Ross in the second half due to a right thigh strain, the Beermen tried to fight their way back with a “reconfigured” lineup.
The Kings though would not give them much ground as they sustained their pounding of the Beermen to establish a 79-65 lead heading into the final quarter.
To start the fourth quarter, the Beermen cranked up their play on both ends of the court to put themselves in a position for a strong wind-up.
They cut Barangay Ginebra’s lead to just five points, 83-78, at the 7:36 mark of the period with Arwind Santos, Mr. Lassiter and Brian Heruela on the firing end.
San Miguel further reduced it to three points, 83-80, after two free throws from Alex Cabagnot with six minutes remaining.
The Kings stopped the bleeding as Mr. Caperal hit a shot clock-beating triple to give his team a six-point cushion, 86-80, which they would use as a springboard for a 4-1 run after to stretch their lead to nine points, 90-81, with under five minutes to play.
San Miguel cut its deficit back to three points, 90-87, as the game hit the last two minutes.
Mr. Aguilar scored off a dunk at the 1:46 mark to give his team a five-point advantage, 92-87.
The Beermen had their chances to cut the Kings’ lead but could not complete them.
An and-one play by LA Tenorio with 32 ticks to go stretched Barangay Ginebra’s advantage to eight points, 95-87, which eventually wound up as the final score.
Mr. Aguilar finished with a double-double of 25 points and 12 rebounds with Mr. Tenorio adding 18 points.
Mr. Caperal and Jervy Cruz each had 12 points while Mr. Devance wound up with 11.
San Miguel, meanwhile, was paced by Mr. Fajardo with 23 points and 16 boards.
Mr. Lassiter had 14 points before fouling out with Messrs. Santos and Cabagnot each having 13 markers.
“It was a grind-out game and key stops and hustle plays in the end made a difference for us,” said Mr. Aguilar of their hard-earned win.
Game Four of the series is tomorrow at the Mall of Asia Arena.