BARANGAY Ginebra turned to Vernon Macklin to avoid a late-game collapse as it escaped with a 91-90 victory over Meralco on Sunday night to clinch a quarterfinal berth in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Mac Baracael also put on a torrid fourth-quarter show, but it was the Kings import who preserved the victory by scoring the go-ahead basket with less than eight seconds remaining as the Kings tied the day’s earlier winner Petron at 7-5 (win-loss) for a share of third place.
The Kings, who extended their winning streak to six games without injured superstar Mark Caguioa, even have a chance to move further up in the standings for one of the top two spots that come with a twice-to-beat edge in the playoffs if they win their last two games.
“Dati, I was really scared of not making the quarterfinals. Nobody could’ve imagined na ngayon nakapasok na kami,” said Kings coach Alfrancis Chua, whose team started the import-flavored conference with four straight losses.
Baracael, the sophomore swingman acquired from Alaska, delivered his best game in a Ginebra uniform as he fired 10 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, including a driving layup that gave his squad an 89-81 lead with two minutes and 26 seconds remaining in the game.
The cushion was almost put to waste after the Bolts mounted a comeback led by three-point assassin Sunday Salvacion, who scored all his nine points — all from beyond the arc — in the payoff period.
Salvacion’s last triple gave the Bolts their last lead at 90-89 with 12.9 seconds to go, setting the stage for Macklin’s heroics.
“This is for the Ginebra team, hindi talaga sumusuko,” Chua said. “Grabe. Sa tagal kong nagco-coach, ngayon lang ako nakakita ng mga batang ganito.”
The Bolts fell to 6-6 for fifth place.
GINEBRA 91 - Macklin 31, Baracael 17, Tenorio 17, Labagala 10, Hatfield 10, Ellis 4, Jensen 2, Espiritu 0, Maierhofer 0, Mamaril 0, Helterbrand 0, Raymundo 0.
MERALCO 90 - Dawson 27, Buenafe 19, Ross 11, Cardona 10, Salvacion 9, Hugnatan 6, Hodge 4, Timberlake 4, Vanlandingham 0, Reyes 0.
Quarterscores: 18-24, 44-43, 71-64, 91-90