|LA Tenorio caught fire when Ginebra needed the most, eating the Alaska defense alive to set up a semifinal Clasico with Star.|
By: Patrick Sutare
QUEZON CITY -- If there is a team capable of overhauling a twice-to-win snag in a playoff dispute, Barangay Ginebra has to be the one.
And for the fourth time in franchise history, they rightly did so once again.
The Gin Kings buckled up on an insurmountable second half surge to complete a two-game stunner over Alaska on Tuesday night, 108-97, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum to advance to the semifinals of the PBA Philippine Cup.
Veteran playmaker LA Tenorio uncorked 31 points, with 22 coming in the second half, in 41 minutes to spearhead the reigning Governor's Cup champs to a flabbergasting finish over the Aces who blew another postseason advantage for the second All-Filipino tiff in a row.
They set up a highly clamored Clasico with archrivals Star in a best-of-seven semifinal beginning on Thursday.
Needless to say, the crowd favorites still got their ''Never Say Die'' mantra running through their veins.
In the absence of injured stabilizer Joe Devance, and with Japeth Aguilar getting into early foul trouble, Ginebra got a significant lift from its second unit to fill the void left by their usual starting big men.
Aljon Mariano and Kevin Ferrer answered the call immediately, playing as unsung heroes to combine for 35 huge points while successfully clogging the paint to play as pilots of the team's inside defense.
It was a back-and-forth action for the most part of the tussle, especially in the first half where the Aces bagged a two-point advantage going to halftime 53-51.
Then the Ginebra rampage happened.
After Jayvee Casio buried a three to tie the game at 63 at the midway point of the third frame, the Kings retaliated for seven quick points to propel the start of an overwhelming salvo to avert the Aces from showing them the exit doors.
They outscored Alaska, 31-18, in the third period alone, before keeping them at bay for good.
But despite handing a painful beating, Ginebra coach Tim Cone has nothing but words of respect for his former team, who he thought was really one of the teams to beat in the conference.
"To me, they are one of the toughest, if not the toughest," the winning coach said. "The constant pressure that Alaska puts on you and the discipline they play with is just really hard to go against."
"I did not feel good about this series at all, and if I could have chosen any team, Alaska would be the last one we'd want to beat twice. But our guys figured out a way. I'm not sure how we did it but our guys figured out a way," he added.
Calvin Abueva tried to carry his team in his lonesome, chalking up 29 markers and collaring 13 rebounds, but to no avail as his team failed to extend their tournament lives.
Vic Manuel tallied 23 points to back Abueva up, but the Aces visibly lacked support as Casio became the third and last guy to break into double-scoring phase with 10.
GINEBRA - Tenorio 31, Mariano 20, Ferrer 15, Thompson 10, Ellis 9, Mercado 9, Marcelo 7, Cruz 5, Aguilar 2, Caguioa 0, Helterbrand 0
ALASKA - Abueva 29, Manuel 23, Casio 10, Racal 8, Galliguez 6, Pascual 6, Exciminiano 5, Thoss 4, Cruz 3, Dela Cruz 3, Hontiveros 0, Jazul 0, Magat 0, Mendoza 0.
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