Barangay Ginebra played its best game in the series besting the Star Hotshots 89-76 in the deciding Game 7 of the semifinals of the Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on Tuesday.
Go-to-guy Solomon Mercado tallied 23 points, five assists and four rebounds. Playmaker LA Tenorio contributed 21 points while Japeth Aguilar had 19 points to lead the Gin Kings, last season’s Governor’s Cup champions, back to the finals.
“Seven games, who could ask for more?” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone during the postgame interview. “It was tough – our guys just did a good job at pushing and pushing and battling and battling.”
Earl Scottie Thompson contributed 10 points and nine rebounds also for the Gin Kings.
“It was truly an amazing series,” added Cone. “I feel bad for Ping (Pingris). He was playing great. Jervy Cruz has been the guy who stepped up for us. It was really a team effort.”
The Gin Kings ended an eight-year title drought last year by winning the Governor’s Cup. Now, they have the chance to end a 10-year title drought in the Philippine Cup.
They will be facing sister-team and defending Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer in Game 1 of the best-of-seven championship series starting Friday at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City.
The Gin Kings, with a solid start established a 26-16 lead after the first quarter behind Mercado’s impressive feat. They sustained their rhythm in the second frame, relying heavily on Aguilar to erect a comfortable 45-36 lead heading into the halftime break.
The Hotshots, behind Allein Maliksi’s 12 points in the third period, closed the gap, 59-62, after Rafi Reavis’ basket with only 1:31 to go in the third period.
Hotshots’ Jean Marc Pingris, who posted 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists, hit a basket with eight ticks left to narrow the gap, 61-65.
But the Kings decisively outscored the Hotshots in fourth period, 24-15, behind Tenorio’s 10 points to seal the win.
Former Ginebra coach Robert “The Living Legend” Jaworski was in attendance in Game 7 witnessed by 20, 221.
After being down in the series 2-3, Ginebra won two straight games including Game 6 to reach the finals.
GINEBRA 89 – Mercado 23, Tenorio 21, Aguilar 19, Thompson 10, Devance 7, Cruz 6, Ferrer 2, Marcelo 1, Caguioa 0, Ellis 0.
STAR 76 – Maliksi 22, Pingris 17, Ramos 14, Barroca 8, Reavis 5, Lee 4, Jalalon 4, Melton 2, Simon 0, Sangalang 0, Dela Rosa 0.
Quarter scores: 26-16, 45-36, 65-61, 89-76.