ANTIPOLO – Barangay Ginebra picked up from where it left off as it frustrated Phoenix, 96-87, on Wednesday night at the Ynares Center to stay in contention for the top seeding in the PBA Governors’ Cup quarterfinals.
Proving once again that they’re the same potent team even without injured Greg Slaughter, the Gin Kings were on cruise control for most of the match before weathering a late rally by the Fuel Masters to register their fourth straight win - and eighth in 10 games to pull within a game of pacesetting TNT Katropa.
Justin Brownlee spearhead the up-tempo attack anew with 28 points, including two on a left-handed layup that doused the Phoenix comeback in the endgame as the Gin Kings left the Fuel Masters in a precarious situation after falling below .500 with a 5-6 win-loss record.
“Phoenix really fought tooth and nail tonight. We thought we could run away, but they just hung around,” Gin Kings coach Tim Cone said. “Still, it was still a good defensive effort for us.”
The Fuel Masters can still clinch the quarterfinals outright if Rain or Shine falls to Star, but if the Elasto Painters prevail, Phoenix will have to settle for a playoff for the last seed against either Alaska or RoS depending on the scenario that manifests.
Still, Phoenix failed to avoid complications as the Gin Kings’ defense held them to just 36-percent shooting and limited Eugene Phelps to just 24 markers on a paltry 8-of-25 shooting after the prolific import came in averaging 37.3 points.
The Fuel Masters, though, refused to go down without a fight as they tried to claw back from 21 points down and cut it to just five points, 90-85, before Brownlee finished a Scottie Thompson feed with a little less than two minutes left to restore order.
LA Tenorio facilitated the Gin Kings offense superbly as he finished with 15 points, four assists, and three boards, while Japeth Aguilar, Sol Meracado, and Joe Devance added 12 points apiece for the Gin Kings, who saw Scottie Thompson continue his fascinating rebounding prowess for a guard by hauling down 16 rebounds on top of five assists and three points.
GINEBRA 96 – Brownlee 28, Tenorio 15, Aguilar 12, Devance 12, Mercado 12, Mariano 6, Caguioa 4, Thompson 3, Cruz 2, Marcelo 2, Helterbrand 0
PHOENIX 87 – Phelps 24, Enciso 15, Urbiztondo 11, Buenafe 8, Wilson J. 8, Baguio 7, Lee 5, Intal 4, Miranda 2, Wilson W. 2, Cruz 1, Pennisi 0, Torres 0, Borboran 0
Quarterscores: 31-18, 59-40, 78-67, 96-87