By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings booked their place in the semifinals of the PBA Philippine Cup after completing a sweep of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in their best-of-three quarterfinal series with a 99-91 win in Game Two yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Faced a resilient challenge from Rain or Shine, which was seeking to force a sudden-death match, Barangay Ginebra stayed the course, coming up with answers at every key juncture of the contest to frustrate its opponent and advance to the semifinal round of season-opening Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) tournament.
The two teams had it nip-and-tuck to start the game until Scottie Thompson and Kevin Ferrer led a Kings sprint with two minutes remaining in the first quarter to take a 29-18 lead after the opening 12 minutes.
In the second quarter Rain or Shine would find its form as a group, trimming their deficit to just three points, 41-38, at the 4:19 mark and eventually seizing the lead altogether by the halftime break, 46-43.
Barangay Ginebra got off to a good start in the third canto as LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar started to assert themselves on offense.
It got to overtake Rain or Shine, 55-53, after four minutes in the quarter, and then extended it to a seven-point cushion, 67-60, by the 4:03 mark.
The Elasto Painters continued to fight back, cutting down their deficit to three points, 73-70, after an Ed Daquioag triple.
But four straight points by the Kings after gave them some distance before settling for a five-point separation, 77-72, heading into the final canto.
Potentially down to their last 12 minutes in the Philippine Cup, the Elasto Painters came out charging to start the payoff quarter, going on a 5-2 run in the first two minutes to come within one point, 79-78.
Mr. Aguilar though would cut Rain or Shine’s momentum as he took command for Barangay Ginebra and pulled his team to an 87-81 advantage two minutes later.
Raymond Almazan led a counter assault by the Elasto Painter with five straight points of his own to move a solitary point away anew from the Kings, 87-86, with five minutes to go.
Barangay Ginebra continued to hold off Rain or Shine thereafter, taking a 94-89 lead entering the final two minutes.
Mr. Aguilar extended their lead, 96-89, with a jumper from midrange with 55 ticks left on the clock.
The Elasto Painters trimmed their deficit to five points, 96-91, six seconds later but they would not go nearer than that as the Kings held on for the win.
Mr. Aguilar had a monster double-double of 27 points and 12 rebounds for the Kings with Jervy Cruz coming off the bench to add 18 points.
Mr. Tenorio had 17 markers while Joe Devance and Sol Mercado had 10 each.
Maverick Ahanmisi paced Rain or Shine with 18 points with Messrs. Almazan and Daquioag adding 14 points apiece.
“I’m proud of the team and my teammates for this win. Coach Tim [Cone] told us at the beginning of the game that closing out a series is difficult and it will require tremendous effort. The entire team stepped up and we won,” Mr. Aguilar said after their win.
Barangay Ginebra, with the win, set up a date with the defending champions San Miguel Beermen in a best-of-seven semifinal series.