By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE Barangay Ginebra San Miguel San Miguel Kings advanced to the semifinal round of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup after completing a sweep of the Meralco Bolts with a 104-90 victory in Game Two of their best-of-three quarterfinal series on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Needing just a victory to move on to the next round of the midseason PBA tournament after their Game One win, the Kings played with a sense of urgency, bucking a tough start to the game and staying on top of things even when the Bolts were seriously trying to get back to the game.
The opening half saw both teams slugging it out.
Meralco got off to a fast start, building a 21-10 lead in the first seven minutes of the opening quarter before Barangay Ginebra made a run back for the remainder of the time to cut the Bolts’ lead to just four points, 28-24, at the end of the first 12 minutes.
Despite giving back some of the ground it had built, Meralco stayed ahead of Barangay Ginebra for much of the second quarter.
But Justin Brownlee would lead a ferocious rally by the Kings in the last minute of the first half, seeing his team overtake the Bolts and establish a 56-51 advantage by the halftime break.
Clinching the leverage they were angling for at the end of the previous quarter, the Kings sped to a 15-point cushion, 71-56, by the 6:26 mark of the third quarter.
Arinze Onuaku and the Bolts tried to chip away on Barangay Ginebra’s lead but could only trim it to 14 points, 79-65, heading into the final frame.
Sensing that they had the Bolts on their heels, the Kings tried to go for the jugular to start the fourth quarter.
They opened things with a 6-2 run to extend their lead to 18 points, 85-67, in the first two minutes of the period.
Meralco, however, would respond with a 14-2 surge of its own to cut Barangay Ginebra’s distance to just six markers, 87-81, with 4:52 left in the game.
But a triple by LA Tenorio and an explosive dunk by Mr. Brownlee off the break after stopped the run of Meralco and gave the Kings more breathing room, 92-81.
From that point Barangay Ginebra just played the staving off game, successfully doing so with steady defense and morale-zapping buckets on offense en route to booking the win.
Mr. Brownlee finished with a game-high 36 points and nine assists to lead Barangay Ginebra.
Greg Slaughter had 14 points and 10 rebounds while Mr. Tenorio had 11 points.
Mr. Onuaku, meanwhile, led Meralco with 21 points and 13 boards while Chris Newsome finished with 17 points.
“We fell behind early in the game but we managed to recover from it as the first quarter came to a close and I think that started to turn things around for us. We just picked up from there. And then LA hit that big shot when Meralco was making its move,” said Kings coach Tim Cone as he described how it went for them in the game.
“Now we are through to the semifinals and we will just wait for the winner between Rain or Shine and GlobalPort. But work never stops for us,” added Mr. Cone, whose wards are now on a seven-game winning streak and now awaits the winner between the do-or-die of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and GlobalPort Batang Pier today.
By Michael Angelo S. Murillo