Leading by as large as 25 points at one point in the match, the first-seeded Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Gin Kings defeated the determined fifth-seeded Meralco Bolts, 91-84, to regain the lead in their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-five semifinals faceoff at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Sports Center last Sunday.
Badly beaten by the Bolts in their game 2 clash, 77-95, the Gin Kings had a blazing start, pulling away early and keeping Meralco at bay all the way to the pivotal win that gave them a 2-1 edge in the series.
Playing exceptionally in all quarters, most especially down the stretch of game 3, Stanley Pringle bested all scorers with 24 points, on top of 9 rebounds and 6 assists.
“Our main focus was to execute,” said Pringle, adding they intend to do better in the next game.
Off the bench, Prince Caperal tallied 15 points and 6 rebounds. Japeth Aguilar finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 blocks, while LA Tenorio had 12 points and 4 assists. Joe Devance added 10 points and 5 rebounds.
The Gin Kings cruised early and enjoyed a 37-12 lead before the Bolts found their footing and trimmed their deficit to just 11 points, 34-45, at halftime.
With 3 minutes left on the clock, two Chris Newsome free throws narrowed the Bolts’ gap to 70-79. However, after a booming three-pointer from Pringle, Ginebra’s lead skyrocket to double digits anew.
Throughout the second half, the Gin Kings maintained at least a two-possession lead, answering everything Meralco throws at them, whereas, in the last 60 seconds of the match, Newsome and Raymond Almazan scored two straight triples. Nonetheless, Pringle and LA Tenorio answered back, scoring back-to-back layups for an 86-76 lead.
As his wards bounced back from their Game 2 loss, Ginebra head coach Tim Cone said: “I thought we came out with a lot more purpose. It takes a lot of effort to win a basketball game, and sometimes, you just do not have that same effort going into the next game, and the other team picks up the effort.”
Allein Maliksi top-scored for the Bolts anew with 23 points off the bench. Almazan had 16 points and 9 rebounds, while Cliff Hodge chimed in 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists in the loss.
Ginebra moved one win away from reaching the All-Filipino finals for the first time since 2017.
Ginebra vs Meralco
Quarters: 27-12; 45-34; 64-52; 91-84.
Gin Kings (91) – Pringle 24 , Caperal 15 , Aguilar 12, ,Tenorio 12 Devance 10 , Thompson 9 , Tolentino 4 , Mariano 5.
Bolts (84) – Maliksi 23 , Almazan 16 , Hodge 13 , Newsome 12, Amer 9 , Quinto 6 , Black 3 , Hugnatan 2 , Faundo 0 , Jamito 0 , Pinto 0.