EVEN inside the bubble, Barangay Ginebra has Meralco’s number.
The Gin Kings remained unbeaten in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup after outclassing perennial finals rival Meralco, 105-91, on Sunday at the Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena and Cultural Center.
The Gin Kings and the Bolts' first meeting inside the league bubble was no different from their last showdown in the 2019 Governors Cup as Finals MVP Japeth Aguilar picked up from where he left off in that title series last January.
Stanley Pringle, Jeff Chan, and Arvin Tolentino also put on strong performances on a night when Mark Caguioa made league history as the Gin Kings improved to 3-0 win-loss to gain a share first place with TNT and Rain or Shine.
But it was Ginebra's defense that made coach Tim Cone proud.
“I just thought it was a really great defensive effort tonight,” said Cone. “We played great defense. I thought we did a really good job on their pick-and-roll and we weren’t getting a lot of breakdowns.
"Because there are very few breakdowns, we were forcing a lot of tough shots, getting rebounds, and we were creating a lot on our offense off our defense. I thought that was the best part for me. I just love seeing our team play defense like that.”
Aguilar scored 20 points in his best game since arriving late in the league bubble while Pringle added 16 points and seven rebounds. Chan scored 12, and Tolentino poured in 11 for Barangay Ginebra.
After a 20-20 deadlock at the end of one quarter, Ginebra began to gain separation from Meralco behind Pringle, who scored seven points in the second quarter to lift his team to a 51-39 lead at the half.
Tolentino's four-point play sent Ginebra to a 65-50 advantage.
Once the game was out of reach, Cone put in Caguioa for his first official game in his 18th straight season with Ginebra, the longest tenure by a PBA player with a single team, surpassing Alvin Patrimonio of Purefoods and Harvey Carey of TNT (17).
Allein Maliksi and Reynel Hugnatan chipped in 18 and 16 points respectively as the Bolts slipped to 1-2.
Barangay Ginebra 105 – J. Aguilar 20, Pringle 16, Chan 12, Tolentino 11, Caperal 9, Mariano 8, Thompson 7, Tenorio 6, Devance 6, Dillinger 5, Balanza 3, Caguioa 2, Salado 0, R. Aguilar 0.
Meralco 91 – Maliksi 18, Hugnatan 16, Amer 10, Newsome 10, Jackson 6, Almazan 6, Black 5, Hodge 5, Quinto 4, Jamito 4, Jose 3, Pinto 2, Caram 2, Salva 0.
Quarters: 20-20; 51-39; 74-60; 105-91.