PETRON Blaze built a huge lead early before surviving an audacious Barangay Ginebra fightback to pull off a 101-94 victory and book a place in the semifinals of the PBA Governors Cup on Thursday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The top-seeded Boosters appeared to be coasting to an easy win after erecting a 25-point lead midway through the third period when the Gin Kings summoned one last burst of energy to make a game of it, just moments after losing franchise player Mark Caguioa to a suspected MCL sprain.
Leading Best Player of the Conference candidate LA Tenorio, Mac Baracael and Josh Urbuztondo led the team back with their torrid three-point shooting as the Gin Kings trimmed the Boosters’ lead to just a point, 89-88, at the halfway point of the final canto.
The Gin Kings eventually lost steam in the end as the Boosters exploited their size advantage en route to booking a semifinal date with the Rain or Shine E-Painters.
“We’re very happy about this win. I think we just got lucky because we played a very tired Ginebra team,” said Petron rookie coach Gee Abanilla after the team stretched its winning run this conference to nine.
“We know for a fact they won’t give up, especially in the third quarter. But it’s a good thing our players stayed together, and we’re happy to get this win,” he added.
Import Elijah Millsap led the Boosters with a triple-double performance of 22 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists, while rookie big man June Mar Fajardo added 20 on a near-flawless nine-of-10 shooting from the field.
Arwind Santos, who leads the MVP race this season, added 17 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks as the Boosters booked their first appearance in the semifinals this season.
Abanilla will be facing his former mentor, Yeng Guiao of Rain or Shine in the best-of-five semifinal series.
Dior Lowhorn had 31 points and 13 rebounds despite playing with a bad back for the Gin Kings, who played their fourth game in six days and paid dearly for their flat start.
Caguioa scored four points before leaving the game for good at the 8:15 mark of the second period.
Petron 101 - Millsap 22, Fajardo 20, Santos 17, Cabagnot 12, Lassiter 11, Lanete 8, Kramer 8, Lutz 3, Tubid 0, Ildefonso 0.
Ginebra 94 - Lowhorn 31, Tenorio 20, Urbiztondo 14, Baracael 11, Helterbrand 6, Mamaril 4, Caguioa 4, Ellis 2, Maierhofer 2, Ababou 0, Wilson 0, Raymundo 0.
Quarterscores: 24-25, 58-42, 83-69, 101-94