TALK 'N Text played the spoiler's role on Sunday night, denying Barangay Ginebra a place in the Top 4 of the PBA Governors Cup playoffs with a 96-92 victory before a huge crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Paul Harris delivered the killer blows in a game where there was no urgency for the Tropang Texters to win, having been assured of a place in the playoffs after a big win over San Mig last week.
The loss, however, had serious repercussions for Ginebra, which wasted a chance to clinch the No. 3 seeding in the knockout rounds - and twice-to-beat advantage against either Alaska or Air21.
Instead, the league's most popular team slipped to the lower half of the quarterfinals, where it will be either a fifth or sixth seed depending on the result of the Rain or Shine-San Mig match on Monday.
Ginebra will play San Miguel Beer as the fifth seed in the event of a San Mig win, or the sixth seed squaring off with Alaska if Rain or Shine wins the game marking the end of the eliminations.
Either way, the Gin Kings will have to win twice to reach the semifinals of the season-ending conference.
On the other hand, the victories by Talk 'N Text and Alaska for the day towed both Rain or Shine and San Mig into the Top 4 even before they could square off on Monday.
Harris finished with 31 points and 16 rebounds for the Texters, who, with their seventh win in nine games, clinched the top seeding and a quarterfinal pairing against No. 8 Barako Bull.
“It was a roller coaster with both teams making runs,” Texters coach Norman Black said after a game that saw 18 lead changes and eight deadlocks.
“But Paul Harris came up big once again in the end, and I loved the quarterbacking of Jimmy Alapag in the second half. And defensively, we did what we had to do.
“It wasn’t a great effort defensively, but it was good enough to win.”
The sharp-shooting import made his biggest impact in the fourth quarter, when Talk 'N Text fought back from 14 points down, 53-67, to wrest the lead entering the final five-minute mark.
To cap off his heroics, Harris scored on a zig-zagging drive past Zach Mason then buried a three-pointer from way out to put the game away for Talk 'N Text, 90-83, with 35 seconds to go.
Ranidel De Ocampo (18 points), Jason Castro (18) and Larry Fonacier (12) also made big impacts in the final perios, where the Tropang Texters outscored the Gin Kings, 41-25, to turn the match around.
Ginebra, which finished the eliminations tied with Air21, Alaska, and San Miguel at 5-4, got double-digit outputs from Japeth Aguilar, Greg Slaughter, Mac Baracael, LA Tenorio and Mason.
However, former MVP Mark Caguioa went scoreless for the Gin Kings.
Talk 'N Text 96 - Harris 31, De Ocampo 18, Castro 18, Fonacier 12, Canaleta 8, Alapag 5, Williams 2, Baclao 2, Reyes Ryan 0, Reyes Rob 0, Carey 0.
Ginebra 92 - Aguilar 18, Mason 15, Slaughter 15, Baracael 14, Tenorio 14, Ababou 7, Helterbrand 3, Knuttel 2, Reyes 2, Monfort 2, Ellis 0, Caguioa 0.
Quarterscores: 19-20, 40-46, 55-67, 96-92