The nine other PBA teams better watch out, because Barangay Ginebra San Miguel seems to be on the rise anew.
With reigning league MVP Mark Caguioa showing the way, the Gin Kings pulled off a morale-boosting 104-101 victory over the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters Sunday night for their second straight victory in the PBA Philippine Cup at the MOA Arena.
Despite sustaining a cut above his left eye in the early goings, Caguioa still flourished with a game-high 22 points, eight coming in the payoff period, while Rudy Hatfield, LA Tenorio and JayJay Helterbrand all chipped to help Ginebra notch its fourth win in nine games, good for solo sixth.
Tenorio, acquired in a blockbuster off-season trade, drilled in 13 of his 21 points in the first half while Hatfield had 11 points and 13 boards for Ginebra, who also got 11 markers from Helterbrand and rookie Chris Ellis.
Ranidel de Ocampo tallied 20 while Jayson Castro had 18 for the TropangTexters, who dropped only their second game in nine starts.
“Yes, sobrang saya ko,” stated an ecstatic Caguioa, who also had 11 rebounds. “Pinakita namin na we can make stops in defense and we can also connect offensively. On both ends, we did great tonight.”
Holding a 54-48 lead at the break, the Kings sustained their charge behind the exploits of Tenorio and Hatfield coupled with a staunch defensive stance that kept the Tropang Texters at bay, before two made free throws by Helterbrand gave them an 83-72 cushion heading into the fourth.
An elbow jumper by Willy Wilson padded Ginebra’s lead to 85-72 but the Tropang Texters, showing poise under duress, used the charity stripe to the hilt, making eight free throws in a crucial rally that pulled them within 84-90.
Caguioa, however, buckled down to work and provided the offensive goods by scoring eight of Ginebra’s next 11 points for a 101-93 buffer, time down to just 1:43.
A triple by Ranidel de Ocampo cut TNT’s deficit to just eight before Helterbrand translated an offensive rebound by Hatfield into a huge lay-up for a 103-96 lead then Kelly Williams made a lay-up, making it 103-98 with 47.8 seconds left.
After Helterbrand muffed a hurried attempt, the Tropang Texters quickly rushed the leather but Aaron Aban bungled a point-blank shot, virtually taking the wind out of the TNT’s sails.Tenorio then got a pre-emptive foul and split his charities, followed by a Fonacier triple that kissed off the glass that virtually pegged the final count with 5.6 seconds to play.
TNT tested Rob Labagala’s nerves at the free throw line with 3.9 ticks remaining and the Ginebra guard missed his two attempts. But the Tropnag Texters failed to secure the leather after a mad scramble, with Labagala chasing it down and holding on it as time expired.
“Somehow the guys are starting to understand they need to involve everybody. Alam na nila how the system goes. But it’s still a long way to go. It’s still a working progress,” stressed Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen.
Earlier, Mac Cardona flirted with a triple-double while Sol Mercado and veteran forward Reynel Hugnatan came up big as Meralco got its swagger back by turning back depleted Petron Blaze 95-81.
After struggling early in the conference, Cardona scattered 16 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds while Mercado clustered 14 of his game-best 22 points, the same output of Hugnatan, to help the Bolts bounced back from a jarring 81-106 shellacking from Rain or Shine last Nov. 4.
Aside from improving their record to 5-3, good for solo fourth, the Bolts also extended the woes of the Boosters, who dropped to ninth spot with a dreary 3-6 mark alongside Barako Bull.
“After a deflating defeat against Rain or Shine, we want to test our bounce-back genes and we did it,” beamed Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio. "We really wanted to test our bounce-back genes by playing hard on both ends of the court and we did. Versus Rain or Shine complacency was our enemy.
“Today, from the opening tip our lockdown defense was there and on offense, we’re hitting in all cylinders,” he added.
Protecting a 52-45 cushion in the third, Meralco uncorked a blistering 17-4 run that stretched its lead to 69-49–the biggest of the game.
Going with a four-guard attack, Petron Blaze clawed back and threatened at 80-70, but Cardona racked up five straight points before rookie Cliff Hodge, who finished with 15 points, sealed the deal with an emphatic two-handed jam, time down to just 3:37.
“This was an important win for us at this point of the conference. We’re still in the upper echelon of the standings and give us a clear shot at No. 4,” added Gregorio.
Alex Cabagnot tallied 19 points while Chris Lutz and Arwind Santos combined for 23 markers but the Boosters, already missing towering rookie June Mar Fajardo, burly Dorian Pena and former two-time MVP Danny Ildefonso, also lost ace forward Jay Washington, who suffered an injury on his left leg in the third canto.
Meralco 95 – Mercado 22, Hugnatan 22, Cardona 16, Hodge 15, Ross 9, Buenafe 6, Salvacion 3, Reyes 2, Belencion 0, Bulawan 0, Borboran 0.
Petron Blaze 81 – Cabagnot 19, Lutz 13, Santos 10, Duncil 9, Miranda 8, Yeo 7, Faundo 6, Washington 5, Mallari 2, Sison 2, Lassiter 0.
Quarterscores: 25-20, 45-38, 69-51, 95-81
Brgy. Ginebra 104 – Caguioa 22, Tenorio 21, Hatfield 12, Ellis 11, Helterbrand 11, Mamaril 9, Maierhofer 6, Espiritu 5, Wilson 4, Taha 3, Labagala 0.
Talk ‘N Text 101 – De Ocampo 20, Castro 18, Alapag 17, Fonacier 16, Williams 11, Reyes 5, Aban 5, Peek 5, Ferriols 2, Carey 2, Gamalinda 0, Dillinger 0.
Quarterscores: 32-29, 54-48, 83-72, 104-101
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