BARANGAY Ginebra weathered one Magnolia comeback after another thanks to Sol Mercado and Greg Slaughter to put away a 93-86 victory on Sunday night and regain first place in the PBA Governors Cup.
Mercado and Slaughter made their conference debut a memorable one, helping Ginebra hold off a Magnolia side that refused to go away easily before a huge Sunday crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Everytime it looked like we were putting the game away, they would come back and make a big run on us. That goes to show how good that team is,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone, referring to Magnolia.
By bouncing back from a loss to Rain or Shine 12 days ago, the Gin Kings wrested the top spot from Magnolia on the strength of an 8-2 (win-loss) card while relegating the Hotshots to a share of second place with Alaska on 8-3 cards.
Justin Brownlee had 29 points and 12 rebounds while Mercado and Slaughter combined for 20 points in their first game back after sitting out the team's first nine games in the season-ending conference. Slaughter also had nine rebounds.
Brownlee's three-pointer in the second quarter put the Kings ahead by 19 points, 43-24— the biggest lead in the match. Ginebra ended the first half with a 46-31 lead on a buzzer-beating three from way out by Aljon Mariano.
Magnolia, however, cut the gap to four points, 51-47, but Ginebra regained momentum with a 15-4 run behind three-pointers by Brownlee and Mercado.
“With those small guards, they can force turnovers and then when they force turnovers, they turn the game on a dime. It’s very frustrating. But it’s a realization that that’s the way they are. That’s who they are," Cone said.
"I’m happy we were able to keep our poise for the most part and come back and make runs of our own,” he added.
Japeth Aguilar added 17 points for Ginebra.
Romeo Travis had 30 points, seven rebounds, and five assists for the Hotshots, who have now lost two of their last three games. Paul Lee led the team back in the second half, finishing with 21 points.
Ginebra 93 – Brownlee 29, Aguilar 17, Slaughter 11, Mercado 9, Tenorio 9, Thompson 6, Mariano 6, Ferrer 3, Chan 3, Caperal 0.
Magnolia 86 – Travis 30, Lee 21, Jalalon 12, Barroca 10, Herndon 5, Melton 3, Simon 2, Dela Rosa 2, Reavis 1, Sangalang 0, Ramos 0, Brondial 0.
Quarters: 24-15; 46-31; 69-53; 93-86.