JAPETH Aguilar pulled off the biggest defensive play of the game, helping Barangay Ginebra beat Phoenix Pulse, 100-97, in a Sunday thriller in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
With Ginebra ahead by just a point, the wiry Aguilar rose to swat away a short stab by Calvin Abueva with the clock ticking down to its final four seconds.
Aljon Mariano made two free throws for a three-point Ginebra lead that held to the end when Phoenix gunner Matthew Wright’s desperation three-pointer rimmed out.
With the victory, the Gin Kings improved to 4-3 while snapping a three-game winning streak of the Fuel Masters, who despite the loss stayed in first place with an 8-2 card.
“We showed great character all game long,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone. “Things weren’t going for us. We were missing shots. They (Phoenix Pulse) were hitting shots off the backboard a couple of times."
"That team plays with great character. We are still working on ours.”
LA Tenorio, who tied Alvin Patrimonio for consecutive games played at 596, had 23 points and hit back-to-back triples in the fourth period that kept the Kings in the game.
Mariano had 20 points and nine rebounds in his best game with Ginebra, capping his heroics with the clutch free throws that enabled Ginebra to bounce back from a lopsided loss to Alaska last week.
Abueva, who had the Ginebra crowd antsy with his antics all game, finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds but the Fuel Masters remained a win short of clinching twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
Ginebra 100 – Tenorio 23, Mariano 20, Slaughter 18, Chan 13, J. Aguilar 11, Thompson 5, Dela Cruz 4, Cruz 4, Mercado 2, Caperal 0, Ferrer 0.
Phoenix Pulse 97 – Abueva 15, Kramer 14, Jazul 13, Chua 13, Marcelo 10, Wright 10, Perkins 9, Mallari 9, Revilla 2, Mendoza 2.
Quarters: 18-24; 40-46; 72-76; 100-97.