BARANGAY Ginebra proved steadier again in its war of attrition against Star, pulling off a 93-86 decision on Wednesday night to even their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series at two games apiece.
Japeth Aguilar stood tallest when it mattered most, pumping in 12 of his 18 points in the payoff period before dishing out an assist to Jervy Cruz for the exclamation point in Game Four in front of a huge crowd at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Cruz caught the Hotshots defense napping as he rewarded Aguilar’s drop pass with a stab and completed a three-point that gave them a seven-point lead, punctuating what had been a stellar night that saw him finish with a game-high 21 points – two shy of his career high – along with six boards, and three assists in 26 minutes as a starter.
“All we did was tie the series,” Gin Kings coach Tim Cone said. “I thought our guys had great resolve today.”
“The game was again dictated by the defense of both teams, but we just came out on top,” he added.
Game Five is on Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
LA Tenorio continued to settle into his role as a decoy as he added eight points, five assists, and four boards, while Scottie Thompson sustained his sensational rebounding play with 14 boards on top of four points, four assists, and four steals in 29 minutes off the bench.
The Gin Kings actually shot slightly worse than the Hotshots at just 43 percent, one percent lower than their opponents, but outrebounded them by three caroms, had more assists, 21-9, and forced them to 17 turnovers to emerge victorious in another grind-out battle.
The Hotshots came within four points, 77-73, after a Marc Pingris basket with a little less than six minutes left, but Aguilar retaliated with four straight points, the last two on free throws off a questionable foul called on Jio Jalalon.
Allein Maliksi led the Hotshots with 18 points built around four triples in 24 minutes that went for naught.
The Hotshots playmakers were riddled with fouls as Paul Lee picked up his fifth foul with a less than a minute gone by in the fourth period, before Mark Barroca fouled out with over eight minutes left in the game, hastening their downfall.
Ginebra 93 – Cruz 21, Aguilar 18, Ellis 10, Ferrer 9, Mercado 9, Tenorio 8, Marcelo 5, Caguioa 5, Thompson 4, Devance 4
Star 86 – Maliksi 18, Jalalon 16, Reavis 13, Lee 9, Pingris 9, Melton 7, Barroca 4, Ramos 4, Sangalang 4, Dela Rosa 2, Simon 0
Quarterscores: 21-23, 48-41, 65-62, 93-86