BARANGAY Ginebra turned to the likes of Aljon Mariano and Scottie Thompson with Japeth Aguilar and LA Tenorio still groping for form as the Gin Kings defeated NLEX, 102-92, on Sunday in the PBA Philippine Cup restart at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
Playing their first game since capturing the 2019 Governors’ Cup in January, Ginebra played with Aguilar and Tenorio still unfit after entering the bubble late and its frontline a lot smaller following Greg Slaughter's decision to take a sabbatical.
The Gin Kings, however, found new heroes like Mariano, who topscored for his team with a career-high 20 points, and Thompson who sparked the key Ginebra breakaway after NLEX top scorer JR Quinahan was ejected following a second technical.
Jared Dillinger, Stanley Pringle and Thompson had 12 points each, while Prince Caperal, Jeff Chan, and Joe Devance each finished 11 points in an all-around effort for the Gin Kings' role players.
Ginebra pulled away from a 52-52 deadlock with a 13-2 run spearheaded by Thompson and Caperal.
NLEX threatened in the fourth quarter by cutting the deficit down to just three points, but Mariano answered with nine points including seven straight to give Ginebra a more comfortable 95-82 spread.
It was the third time Mariano scored 20 in a game in his PBA career. The last time the former UST Tiger did so was in March 10, 2019 in a 100-97 victory against Phoenix in the Philippine Cup, according to PBA chief statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
Quinahan had a career-high 26 points but was ejected in the third quarter for a technical foul that added to his flagrant foul penalty one incurred in the first half.
Kevin Alas had 16 points in his first game back from knee surgery but Kiefer Ravena was held to six points, no thanks to the stifling defense of the Gin Kings.
“At halftime, I told the team that we played better than I thought we would but not as well as I hope we would,” said Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
“But I thought we did such a tremendous job guarding Kiefer in the first half and yet we played him so well, it was a tied ballgame. So I thought maybe we are going to be in some trouble in the second half. But we had some guys that really stepped up in the void.”
By playing for 11 minutes, Tenorio extended his consecutive games played to 642. But he only had a point, two rebounds, and two turnovers. Aguilar only had seven points and shot three out of nine attempts from the field.
Cone said Tenorio and Aguilar were visibly out of rhythm having missed the team’s practices in the bubble from the beginning.
“It’s nice to get that first win especially since we didn’t have much practice time with LA and Japeth,” said Cone.
Barangay Ginebra 102 – Mariano 20, Dillinger 12, Thompson 12, Pringle 12, Caperal 11, Chan 11, Devance 11, J. Aguilar 7, Tolentino 5, Tenorio 1, R. Aguilar 0, Balanza 0.
NLEX 92 – Quinahan 26, Alas 16, Cruz 11, Porter 9, Soyud 7, Ravena 6, Semerad 5, Miranda 4, Ighalo 3, Galanza 3, Ayonayon 2, Paniamogan 0.
Quarters: 31-22; 48-48; 83-75; 102-92.