BARANGAY Ginebra suddenly got its offense going late in a defensive battle as it blew past Star, 73-62, on Monday night to pull a game back in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series.
Sol Mercado and Japeth Aguilar hit the biggest baskets from three-point land down the stretch as the Gin Kings finished the game on a 14-2 run to break loose in a see-saw Game Three before a sizeable crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Mark Caguioa also provided some quality minutes in the second half off the bench for the Gin Kings, who trimmed the best-of-seven series deficit to 2-1.
The Gin Kings can knot the series with a win in Game Four on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“We hit some shots when we needed to and Mark Caguioa came off the bench and gave us a lift,” Gin Kings coach Tim Cone said.
But it was the Gin Kings’ defense that kept them afloat throughout the game as they limited the Hotshots to a dismal 29-percent shooting on the way to the lowest output by any team over the last five conferences, according to chief statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
“I thought this would still be a defensive battle, but I didn’t think it would be like this. Both teams are just bleeding for points,” Cone said. “It’s not bad basketball, it’s just really hard defense.”
“I’m just so impressed how coach Chito has molded that team in terms of defense. The good news is we’re back in the series,” the champion coach added.
Mercado fired a game-high 16 points, including six on two three-pointers in the fourth as he sparked the finishing kick and stepped up with LA Tenorio shackled.
Aguilar added 15 points and 13 boards, and capped their run with a short stab that gave the Gin Kings a 73-60, a turnaround after trailing, 59-60, halfway through the fourth.
The result spoiled the workmanlike effort of Marc Pingris, who hauled down 18 boards and scored 12 points on top of one block in 36 minutes for the Hotshots, who rallied after being down, 17-4, to start the game.
GINEBRA 73 – Mercado 16, Aguilar 15, Caguioa 8, Tenorio 7, Thompson 7, Ferrer 6, Devance 6, Cruz 3, Marcelo 3, Ellis 2, Mariano 0, Helterbrand 0, Mariano 0
STAR 62 – Pingris 12, Melton 8, Jalalon 7, Lee 7, Barroca 6, Sangalang 6, Simon 5, Maliksi 4, Reavis 3, Abundo 2, Dela Rosa 2, Brondial 0, Ramos 0