GREG Slaughter and import Zach Mason hit the big baskets down the stretch to lead Barangay Ginebra to an 84-76 come-from-behind victory over a tough Air21 side in the PBA Governors Cup on Tuesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Held to a combined nine points in the first half, Slaughter and Mason erupted for 10 and six points, respectively, in the final period to help the Gin Kings preserve their immaculate record three games into the reign of new head coach Jeffrey Cariaso.
But aiding the Gin Kings’ third straight win was the free throw shooting woes of the Express, who saw its two best players - Asi Taulava and import Dominique Sutton - combine to shoot 5-of-20 from the foul line.
The Express dropped to 2-1 (win-loss) for second to fifth places with Alaska, San Miguel and defending champion San Mig Super Coffee, which beat Meralco in the day's opening game.
“When you lose a game, you always look at how many free throws you missed. And it can hurt you,” said Ginebra rookie coach Jeffrey Cariaso, whose team trailed by as many as seven points in the first half.
“We’re fortunate they missed a few. But it was just great effort and great focus, we’re just willing to struggle and push through and find the way (to win),” he added.
The scrappy Express, who are still missing the services of injured big men Sean Anthony and Enrico Villanueva, outrebounded the taller Gin Kings, 52-46.
Sutton led the Express with 22 points, but he only scored six in the final half while shooting just 2-of-9 from the free throw line. He did grab 19 rebounds.
On the other hand, the 6-9 Taulava finished with just nine points after going 3-of-11 from the field and a woeful 3-of-11 from the foul line.
Mason led the Gin Kings with 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Slaughter added 12 and 15 boards as he got the better of his match-up with Taulava.
Ginebra 84 - Mason 22, Slaughter 12, Aguilar 10, Helterbrand 9, Baracael 8, Tenorio 8, Caguioa 6, Reyes 4, Ellis 3, Monfort 2, Ababou 0.
Air21 76 - Sutton 22, Cardona 14, Yeo 11, Taulava 9, Borboran 7, Ramos 5, Burtscher 3, Atkins 3, Camson 2, Villanueva 0.
Quarterscores: 16-17, 34-37, 58-53, 84-76