Ginebra outduels Meralco in frantic finish to zero in on twice-to-beat spot
Japeth Aguilar goes for a dunk against Meralco import Alex Stepheson. Jerome Ascano

ANTIPOLO – Barangay Ginebra continued to have Meralco’s number in import-loaded conferences as it hacked out a 90-89 victory to solidify its bid for a top-two finish in the eliminations of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

Joe Devance immediately made his presence felt after missing the last game as he scored the go-ahead putback before LA Tenorio drained two charities to give the Gin Kings enough cushion to hold on against the Bolts in a virtual rematch of the last Governors’ Cup Finals.

The Gin Kings thus won for the third time in a week – and eighth overall in 10 games to claim a piece of the lead with Star, while handing the Bolts their third straight loss to finish the eliminations at 7-4, denying their victims of a shot at a two-top berth that comes with a twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals.

Although the Gin Kings sustained their mastery of the Bolts, the result certainly didn’t come on a silver platter as the marquee matchup lived up to its billing at the full-house Ynares Center.

“They took us kind of out of what we like to do,” Gin Kings coach Tim Cone said. “They did a really good job of controlling the tempo, making it a grind out game.”

“We just had one more shot than they did,” he added. “We played them two conferences ago; it was a battle then and it was a battle tonight.”

After all, both teams engaged each other in a nip-and-tuck battle the saw 10 lead changes and nine deadlocks.

Justin Brownlee and LA Tenorio came through as usual with 22 points apiece, but it was Devance who came up with the biggest plays down the stretch.

After missing the last game due to a handful of minor ailments, Devance sported a new hairdo, but displayed the same steady performance, dishing out a behind-the-back pass to Japeth Aguilar for the jumper that tied the game at 86, before recovering Tenorio’s missed triple for the short stab that gave them the lead for good.

Cliff Hodge hit a triple to nudge the Bolts to within one, but failed to catch an errant baseball pass from Chris Newsome in the next possession for a potential fastbreak layup that instead sealed their fate.

The result spoiled a solid showing from Baser Amer, who led the Bolts with 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals in 39 minutes.


The scores: 


Ginebra 90 – Tenorio 22, Brownlee 22, Mercado 14, Aguilar 11, Thompson 9, Devance 6, Ferrer 2, Mariano 2, Ellis 2, Caguioa 0, Marcelo 0, Taha 0

Meralco 89 – Amer 21, Stepheson 18, Dillinger 15, Newsome 13, Hodge 13, Nabong 4, Daquioag 3, Chua 2, Yeo 0, Uyloan 0, Hugnatan 0

Quarterscores: 22-24, 42-48, 74-69, 90-89

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos