Barangay Ginebra nearly squandered an early 18-point lead, banking on clutch hits by Japeth Aguilar in the fourth quarter as the Kings preserved their clean slate in the PBA Governors Cup with a 104-98 win over the NorthPort Batang Pier at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
Aguilar scored 12 of his 23 points in the payoff period as the Kings survived Stanley Pringle's 34-point explosion and the Batang Pier' turnaround from a sloppy start.
"Japeth had key shots in the end and it got us over the hump," said Ginebra coach Tim Cone of Aguilar's endgame exploits that kept the Kings unbeaten from their Commissioner's Cup title run.
Cone, however, insisted they're just on a "surviving mode."
"We need to be a lot better than what we're playing right now. We're not staying to our character at this point. We're just doing what we can to survive," he said.
"We need to find our discipline a little more. We need more flow and we need more focus on defense. Hopefully that stuffs come around as we move forward," he added.
The Kings also had tight wins over Columbian Dyip (96-84) and Alaska Milk (109-101) before going through another grind-out game against NorthPort.
It was actually a lopsided game at the start, but NorthPort made a game out of it on a steady chase in the second half, largely behind the wondrous game of Pringle.
Failing to sustain the effort, NorthPort went down to 0-4.
"We put up schemes. We schemed him but he's so quick we couldn't keep up with him," said Cone of Pringle who rallied the Batang Pier from the 15-33 count at the end of the opening quarter and from 41-60 down early in the second half.
The Fil-Am guard was at his best in the final half, pouring in 19 points in the third period and eight in the fourth quarter, including six straight markers that kept the Batang Pier within striking distance of the Kings, 97-100, with time down to 1:10.
NorthPort eventually went away as, at 97-102, Rashad Woods committed a costly passing error.
Aguilar personally put NorthPort away on back-to-back baskets that made it 104-97.
Minus Joe Devance and Sol Mercado, the Kings rode high on the exploits of Aguilar, Justin Brownlee, LA Tenorio and Greg Slaughter who all scored at least 18 points each.
A scary moment for the Kings was Slaughter taking a bad fall on a collision with Sean Anthony in the 5:49 mark of the fourth quarter.
Cone took him out and opted to just rest him the rest of the way.(SB)
Ginebra 104 - Brownlee 27, Aguilar 23, Ferrer 6, Slaughter 18, Tenorio 18, Mariano 4, Thompson 4, Chan 2, Caguioa 2.
NorthPort 98 - Pringle 34, Woods 28, Tautuaa 11, Anthony 9, Taha 6, Fortuna 5, Guinto 3, Grey 2, Arana 0, Espinas 0, Gabayni 0.
Quarters: 33-15, 57-41, 79-73, 104-98.