BARANGAY Ginebra displayed its never-say-die attitude in the second half behind the spirited plays of LA Tenorio, Jayjay Helterbrand and Chris Ellis to pull off a 97-90 come-from-behind win over Rain or Shine in Sunday night’s PBA Philippine Cup action at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With the pro-Ginebra crowd egging them on with every possession, the Gin Kings came alive behind Tenorio who fired 11 of his 20 points in the final period to lead a huge fightback from 18-points down.
High-leaping rookie Ellis also got into the late scoring act, hitting 13 of his 15 points in the second half, including a reverse windmill slam at the buzzer to put a punctuation mark on the Gin Kings’ remarkable comeback.
“We didn’t play well especially in the first half. It was really terrible. Our defense was not good, we started flat. But somehow the good thing was, we were able to stick together as a team. Siyempre, maraming frustrations yun eh. But we were able to grind through this one,” said Barangay Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen.
The Gin Kings' fourth straight win allowed them to catch idle Meralco in a tie for fourth to fifth place on 6-5 win-loss records.
Tanquingcen said benching reigning MVP Mark Caguioa in the final period when they were still down by eight, was a difficult decision to make.
“It’s a hard decision (to bench Caguioa). We were even debating on it with the coaching staff. Kumbaga kasi sa giyera, gusto mo makasama (mo s'ya ) sa foxhole kahit ano mangyari. Pero kasi, sa whole game nag struggle eh, so we said, sige tingnan namin, and it turned out to be a blessing,” explained Tanquingcen.
Helterbrand stepped up in the absence of Caguioa in the final period, contributing a big triple at the height of the Gin Kings’ mighty comeback as the more than 12,000 people inside the Big Dome erupted in a frenzy.
Helterbrand finished the game with six points, seven rebounds and five assists in 23 quality minutes.
Defense played a huge part in the Gin Kings’ comeback as they held down the Elasto Painters to just 33 points in the last two quarters. Rain or Shine shot just 39.7 percent from the field as the boys of Yeng Guiao couldn’t find their mark in the most crucial stretch.
The loss dropped Rain or Shine to third spot with its 8-4 record, behind Talk ‘N Text’s league-leading 10-2 record and San Mig Coffee’s 8-3 card.
Rain or Shine’s setback also spoiled the return of celebrated rookie guard Chris Tiu, who finished the game with eight points, two rebounds, one assist and two steals in 20 minutes.
The former Ateneo guard was sidelined for a huge part of the eliminations due to a hamstring injury he suffered during his first game more than a month ago against Petron.
Jervy Cruz led the Rain or Shine with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Larry Rodriguez added 14 and eight boards.
Barangay Ginebra 97 - Tenorio 20, Caguioa 18, Ellis 15, Mamaril 12, Wilson 9, Maierhofer 7, Helterbrand 6, Taha 4, Espiritu 2, Raymundo 2, Hatfield 2, Labagala 0
Rain or Shine 90 - Cruz 17, Rodriguez 14, Tang 12, Chan 11, Quinahan 10, Tiu 8, Arana 8, Belga 7, Matias 3, Norwood 0
Quarter scores: 20-33, 42-57, 69-75, 97-90