By Dugout Philippines
ANTIPOLO–Barangay Ginebra paid tribute to a great ol’ Ginebra team and made the night even more worthwhile with a grind-out win over Meralco that put the Kings in a good position to gain top seeding in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs.
Wearing a retro Ginebra uniform, the Kings played the team’s old never-say-die spirit and fashioned out a 90-89 cliffhanger over the Meralco Bolts to gain a share of the lead with two play dates to go in the single-round-robin elims phase.
Before a raucous sellout crowd at the Ynares Sports Center here, the Kings pulled an escape act and thus caught up with the Star Hotshots at 8-2.
Having beaten all their major rivals atop the heap, Ginebra can take elims top honors with a win against Mahindra at the close of the elims on Friday.
“This set us up to get the No. 1 seed. Top seeding doesn’t guarantee a championship but it gets you to a good road in the playoffs,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
Ginebra and Meralco figured in a tough grind-out battle with Kings pulling through on a big lapse by the Bolts in the dying seconds.
The Bolts got a chance to win the game after Justin Brownlee missed two charities with Ginebra ahead by just one at 90-89 with six seconds to go.
Alex Stepheson grabbed the defensive rebound but then Chris Newsome ran a fastbreak play that went awry, hurling a pass that went way, way ahead of the streaking Cliff Hodge.
Thus, Meralco settled for a 7-4 closing mark outside the Top Two. Missing a twice-to-beat bonus in the quarters, the Bolts instead figure in a best-of-three quarters playoff.
Justin Brownlee and LA Tenorio scored 22 points each as the Gin Kings completed a hat trick in a week.
Before scalping Meralco, Ginebra hurdled San Miguel Beer and Blackwater.
Ginebra established an early double-digit deficit on a 12-2 start but Meralco took just a little while to get into the fight, moving ahead, 24-22, at the end of the opening quarter.
And with a better ball rotation and better clip, the Bolts enjoyed a six-point lead, 48-42, at the half.
Stepheson, held to nine points and nine rebounds in their last game, had eight markers and eight boards in the opening half of this game.
Brownlee got the upper hand over Stepheson in the third, and the Kings surged ahead, 74-69, going into the final canto.
It was a battle that boiled down to the last play.
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