BARANGAY Ginebra showed it can protect a huge lead against San Miguel Beer this time as it hammered out a 95-87 win to pull a game back in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series on Tuesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
After squandering a 15-point lead in Game Two, the Gin Kings managed to hold on to a 14-point cushion this time, shrugging off a late rally by the Beermen to reduce the series deficit at 1-2.
Japeth Aguilar showed the way with 25 points and 12 boards, while LA Tenorio also delivered for the Gin Kings.
“We just have to play an A++ game to have a chance to beat them,” Gin Kings coach Tim Cone said. “And they come out and seem like they’re playing their B, B+ game, and they’re able to steal or beat us. It’s just amazing how good they are.”
“We have to play perfect to beat them and we almost played perfect tonight,” he added.
Game Four of the best-of-seven series is on Thursday also at the MOA Arena.
Tenorio was the barometer as usual, firing 15 points in the middle quarters, before adding three more in the final frame – on a three-point play that sealed the deal for the Gin Kings, giving them a seven-point lead with 32 seconds left that turned out to be the final score.
Prince Caperal also sustained his emergence in the absence of Greg Slaughter, chipping in 12 points, four boards, one assist, and committing just one turnover in 33 minutes as starter, knocking down a crucial three-pointer that doused an SMB comeback attempt midway through the payoff period.
The Beermen kept the game interesting from there behind June Mar Fajardo, who led his team with 23 points and 16 boards, scoring nine points in the final frame, including two from the charity stripe that pulled them to within three points, 90-87.
But Aguilar retaliated with a putback slam, before Tenorio converted that three-point play that proved to be the finishing touches for the Gin Kings.
Ginebra benefited from the absence of Chris Ross in the second half after the SMB star playmaker has been suffering from a strained right thigh since before Game Two.
GINEBRA 95 — J. Aguilar 25, Tenorio 18, Caperal 12, Cruz 12, Devance 11, Thompson 9, Mercado 8, Ferrer 0, Manuel 0
SMB 87 — Fajardo 23, Lassiter 14, Cabagnot 13, Santos 13, Ganuelas-Rosser 8, Ross 6, Lanete 5, Heruela 3, Espinas 2, De Ocampo 0, Mamaril 0, Pessumal 0
Quarterscores: 19-15, 45-39, 79-65, 95-87