FACING a team that once squandered a 3-0 lead in a series, Barangay Ginebra certainly knew it could overcome whatever advantage Alaska had this time.
Once again showing the resilience that made them the league’s most popular team, the Gin Kings toppled the second-seeded and twice-to-beat Aces, 108-97, on Tuesday night to advance to the semifinals of the PBA Philippine Cup.
The seventh-seeded Gin Kings thus became only the 12th team to overcome a higher-seeded opponent with a twice-to-beat advantage, according to chief statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
The Gin Kings erased an early deficit before creating significant separation in the third quarter to frustrate the Aces once again before a packed crowd at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
LA Tenorio shone brightest with a career-high 31 points, capped by a tough, contested jumper to the delight of coach Tim Cone, who couldn’t help but raise his arms in celebration.
With Joe Devance out with a foot injury, Aljon Mariano was the next man up as he added 20 points – eclipsing his career high as early as the first half, as the Gin Kings arranged a semifinal classic against sister team Star - the first for the two popular ballclubs since the 2014 Philippine Cup.
Kevin Ferrer also came through on offense with 15 points, five boards, and two steals, one block, and one assist after making a mark on the defensive end in in the first game.
“We picked the best time play our best game of the conference,” Cone said. “If I had to pick an opponent among the higher seeds, Alaska would be the last one. But I don’t know.
“Our guys found ways.”
Riding the momentum of their 85-81 win in the first game, the Gin Kings were confident they could put up an encore as the outscored the Aces in the third quarter, 31-18, to build a sizeable lead that grew to as many as 14 points in the fourth, 89-75, after a Japeth Aguilar putback.
Scottie Thompson continued to energize the Gin Kings as the sophomore sensation chipped in 10 points and missed a double-double by just one rebound, on top of three steals, and two assists in 38 minutes.
Calvin Abueva also did the same for the Aces as 'The Beast' conspired with Vic Manuel in carrying the Aces on their shoulders as they found little help from the rest of the team.
Abueva finished with 29 points, 13 boards, two blocks, while Manuel added 23 markers, five rebounds, and three assists for Alaska, which played without injured guard Chris Banchero.
GINEBRA 108 – Tenorio 31, Mariano 20, Ferrer 15, Thompson 10, Mercado 9, Ellis 9, Marcelo 7, Cruz 5, Aguilar 2, Helterbrand 0, Caguioa 0
ALASKA 97 - Abueva 29, Manuel 23, Casio 10, Racal 8, Pascual 6, Galliguez 6, Exciminiano 5, Thoss 4, Cruz 3, Dela Cruz 3, Hontiveros 0, Jazul 0, Magat 0, Mendoza 0
Quarterscores: 21-25, 51-53, 82-71, 108-97