JAPETH Aguilar hit a big three-pointer off a broken play with 1.7 seconds left to lead Barangay Ginebra past NLEX, 110-107, on Wednesday night and into the quarterfinals of the PBA Governors Cup.
Struggling to find his offense for much of the game, the 6-9 Aguilar proved clutch when he got the ball from import Orlando Johnson then hit a trey from the deep right corner over KG Canaleta.
When Canaleta's own three-point attempt bounced off the rim, Ginebra completed an improbable trip to the playoffs in its first conference under coach Frankie Lim.
“It all came down to making stops,” Gin Kings coach Frankie Lim said. “We also did well on their zone defense and that gave us an opportunity to convert our three-point shots.”
Ginebra, which by beating NLEX bumped off Kia from the playoff picture, set a new all-time league record of 25 straight playoff appearances ahead of its daunting matchup against top seed and twice-to-beat Alaska.
Aguilar's clutch trey capped a memorable night for Ginebra, which got a new lease on life after KIA beat Meralco, 88-85, before completing a comeback from a 14-point deficit against the Road Warriors.
Ginebra finished the eliminations tied with Meralco, Talk 'N Text and KIA for seventh place, but got the eighth and final seeding by virtue of a superior quotient.
Meralco finished as the seventh seed, but losses in their last two games kept sister team Talk 'N Text out of the playoffs.
The other quarterfinal match-ups will now see No. 2 San Miguel Beer meeting seventh seed Meralco, third seed Rain or Shine taking on No. 6 Barako Bull and No. 4 GlobalPort facing fifth-seeded defending champion Star.
The higher seeds will have twice-to-beat advantage in the knockout quarterfinals.
Ginebra 110 - Tenorio 21, Johnson 21, Kim 16, Slaughter 14, Monfort 11, Mercado 9, Marcelo 9, Aguilar 7, Brondial 2, Pena 0, Baracael 0.
NLEX 107 - Madanly 36, Taulava 18, Alexander 12, Borboran 11, Raymundo 10, Canaleta 7, Villanueva J. 5, Cardona 2, Lingganay 2, Villanueva E. 2, Arboleda H. 2, Wilson 0, Ramos 0.
Quarterscores: 21-29, 50-55, 78-85, 110-107