BOCAUE – Barangay Ginebra thrived in a raucous atmosphere as it frustrated Meralco, 85-74, on Sunday night to move on the verge of a successful title defense of the PBA Governors’ Cup.
The Gin Kings drew rejuvenated performances from LA Tenorio and Greg Slaughter, while Justin Brownlee put up another all-around showing as usual as they delivered on both ends to take Game Five in front of the second-biggest crowd in league history of over 36,445 fans at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
“Meralco has done a really good job of grinding out wins against us and that’s really what we’ve always tried to be about – a grind out, defensive type team and so we talked about getting back to our identity,” Gin Kings coach Tim Cone said as his team bounced back after two losses to regain the lead at 3-2 in the series.
“I thought we were able to take away some of their (Bolts’) strengths, while we took advantage of ours,” he added.
The Gin Kings can finish off the Bolts in Game Six on Wednesday night also at the 55,000-seat Philippine Arena.
Scoreless in over 31 minutes in Game Four, Tenorio turned aggressive from the get-go this time as he fired nine points in the opening canto to spark the Gin Kings’ solid start and finished with 17 points on top of six boards, four assists, and three steals in 40 minutes.
Greg Slaughter finally lived up to his tag as the Best Player of the Conference as he churned out 17 points 16 boards, six blocks, and one assist in 33 minutes as a starter as he took advantage of his size against a shorter Meralco frontline.
Brownlee led the Gin Kings with 20 points, on top of 12 rebounds, five assists, three steals, and one block, without committing a single turnover in 46 minutes.
The do-it-all Ginebra import scored on a lefty layup off a Kevin Ferrer assist and completed a three-point play that gave the Gin Kings a 77-70 lead halfway through the payoff period and proved to be turning point of the game.
Allen Durham also filled the stats sheet as usual with 27 points, 19 caroms, five assists, and three blocks, but unlike Browlee, the Meralco reinforcement failed to get significant local help from Chris Newsome and Baser Amer.
Still, the Bolts managed to erase an early 18-point deficit, but lost steam in the end as they failed to sustain their back-to-back wins, leaving them in a do-or-die game on Wednesday.
GINEBRA 85 – Brownlee 20, Slaughter 17, Tenorio 17, Devance 12, Aguilar 8, Thompson 5, Caguioa 4, Ferrer 2
MERALCO 74 – Durham 27, Lanete 11, Hugnatan 8, Caram 7, Hodge 6, Dillinger 6, Newsome 5, Amer 4, Tolomia 0, Faundo 0
Quarterscores: 21-15, 42-35, 66-62, 85-74