Barangay Ginebra San Miguel used a dominant start to take a 2-1 series edge over the Meralco Bolts after a 91-84 win in Game 3 of the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals, Sunday evening at the AUF Sports Arena and Cultural Center.
Ginebra only needs one more win in the best-of-five series to make the All-Filipino Finals for the first time since 2017, while Meralco has never made the championship round in this conference.
After finding themselves down by one in the opening minutes of the game, Ginebra unleashed 18 unanswered points to take a 22-5 lead. The Gin Kings also muzzled their opponents for almost six minutes of game action. Cliff Hodge quenched the scoring drought with a layup, but still lagged by 15, 22-7, 2:33 left in the first quarter. Ginebra led by the same margin after the first quarter.
In the second, Ginebra continued to assert their dominance and went forward by as much as 25, 37-12, after a triple by L.A. Tenorio. All of a sudden, the Bolts were awoken from their trance and had a jolt in offense. Meralco was able to mount a 14-2 run and trim the deficit to 13, 39-26, a result of Raymond Almazan's layup. Ginebra was able to maintain their double-digit advantage at halftime, 45-34.
After intermission, Allein Maliksi opened the second half with a three-pointer to bridge the gap to eight, 45-37. Ginebra was able to respond and create a 16-point spread, 56-40. However, the Bolts' resiliency was on full display, cutting the lead once more to seven, 56-49, after a layup by Hodge.
To start the fourth, Ginebra would lead by 15, but Meralco staged a last-ditch effort to trim into the deficit of their opponents. Maliksi's three connected to cut the lead to eight, 84-76, with 2:11 left. After a miss by Stanley Pringle, Bolts guard Chris Newsome was surveying the floor but the veteran Tenorio was able to lunge on the opportunity and strip the ball off Newsome and score a fastbreak hoop over him, 86-76, 1:37 left.
Japeth Aguilar would increase the lead back to 12, 88-76, but Almazan and Maliksi each nailed a triple to cut the lead to six, 88-82, with 21.7 left but time was too short for Meralco to climb back.
Pringle was once again Ginebra's shining star, scoring 24 points, with 9 rebounds and 6 assists to boot. Prince Caperal added 15 markers on a 5/9 shooting clip.
For Meralco, Allein Maliksi topped the team in scoring with 23 points, while Almazan put up 16 markers and hauled in 9 rebounds.
Ginebra head coach Tim Cone knows they will expect a tough battle from the Bolts on Wednesday, as they try to stave off elimination.
"It takes a lot of effort to win a basketball game, and sometimes, you just don't have that same effort going into the next game, and another team picks up the effort. Those are the challenges for coaches," explained Cone. "I wish I had a magic potion for you to tell you how it's done, but there is no magic. It's just a lot of hard work by the guys getting ready mentally and physically to come out and play another game."
Ginebra (91) -- Pringle 24, Caperal 15, Tenorio 12, Aguilar 12, Devance 10, Thompson 9, Mariano 5, Tolentino 4, Dillinger 0, Salado 0, Chan 0, Dela Cruz 0, R Aguilar 0, Caguioa 0, Balanza 0.
Meralco (84) -- Maliksi 23, Almazan 16, Hodge 13, Newsome 12, Amer 9, Quinto 6, Black 3, Hugnatan 2, Faundo 0, Jackson 0, Jose 0, Salva 0, Pinto 0, Caram 0, Jamito 0.
Quarter Scores: 27-12, 45-34, 64-52, 91-84
- Ginebra dominated the interior, outscoring Meralco 46-28 inside the paint.
- Meralco only held the lead for 27 seconds, 5-4 in the opening minutes.
Game 4 on Wednesday, Nov. 25, at 3:45 p.m.