Ginebra wins nail-biter against Meralco, ties PBA finals series

By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--Ginebra survived a second consecutive down-the-wire game in the PBA Governors' Cup finals against Meralco, hacking out an 82-79 win in front of 18,278 people at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday night that tied the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.

Sol Mercado scored the eventual game-winning basket while putting up a great defense on Allen Durham down the stretch to help the Barangay bounce back from the Game 1 defeat to the Bolts two nights back.

Ginebra appeared to be pulling away as early as the third quarter, opening a 63-48 lead with 5:39 left in the period.

But Meralco slowly crawled back and eventually took the lead, 76-75, with 4:21 to go in the fourth quarter.

Justin Brownlee would put the Barangay back up, 77-76, but Cliff Hodge answered with a three-point play to give the Bolts a 79-77 cushion with 2:45 to go.

Brownlee then scored on an off-balanced shot to tie the game for the last time, 79-all, at the two-minute warning.

After a series of stops, the Bolts thought they forced the Barangay to another muffed offensive after forcing LA Tenorio to a desperation flick as the shotclock expired, but Mercado got the ball and put it back in for an 81-79 lead by the Barangay with 28.2 seconds to go.

Durham, who was guarded by Mercado, misfired on a one-hander, and Ginebra got the ball back with 13.4 seconds remaining.

Tenorio, however, left the door open for Meralco as he only made one of two free throws after a foul.

The Barangay only escaped after Durham and Hodge completely missed the mark from beyond the arc in the dying moments.

Brownlee led Ginebra with 32 points and 12 rebounds, while Mercado added 12 points.

Durham, who was named the Best Import of the Conference earlier Sunday, tallied 22 markers for Meralco, while Hodge contributed 16.

Jimmy Alapag only made three points, but those points were very special because he became the league's new all-time three-point king after his trey with 4:49 left in the second quarter put him ahead of Allan Caidic in terms of made long toms.

Box Scores:

Ginebra 82-Brownlee 32, Mercado 12, Caguioa 10, Tenorio 9, Thompson 9, Aguilar 6, Devance 2, Helterbrand 2, Cruz 0, Marcelo 0

Meralco 79 - Durham 22, Hodge 16, Newsome 10, Hugnatan 9, Nabong 6, Amer 4, Caram 4, Alapag 3, Uyloan 3, Faundo 2

Quarterscores: 24-21, 43-44, 69-60, 82-79

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