Barangay Ginebra survived a hard struggle as it came through with two defensive gems at the finish to stop tournament-frontrunner Phoenix Pulse, 100-97, in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Sunday.
Japeth Aguilar and Scottie Thompson played behind LA Tenorio, Aljon Mariano and Greg Slaughter offensively, but delivered the defensive exploits that lifted Ginebra past Phoenix and into solo fifth place at 4-3.
The Fuel Masters got stalled at 8-2, but will have another shot at a Top Two Finish versus the San Miguel Beermen Saturday in Panabo, Davao del Norte.
"For one night, we're able to match their character," said Ginebra coach Tim Cone shortly after they pulled through in the grind-out battle.
"We showed character all game long. Things were not going for us, we're missing shots and they're hitting shots off the backboard. But we played with character. We didn't panic and we didn't quit," Cone also said.
Truly, the Kings persevered when things didn't go their way.
Trailing most of the way, the Kings got to finally taste the lead only at 94-93 in the last 2:58 mark of the game, then they played tough to the finish to stop the blazing Phoenix charge.
They were still in a precarious spot at 98-97 when Thompson and Aguilar delivered the clincher on the defensive end.
Thompson stole off Matthew Wright, then a little later, Aguilar blocked a shot by Calvin Abueva underneath the basket.
Aljon Mariano grabbed the defensive rebound and, with a quick foul from Phoenix, the former UST stalwart drained both charities to make it 100-97 with time down to 4.5 seconds.
Actually, the Fuel Masters were still able to launch an attempt to force overtime, but Wright's long heave rimmed out to the collective sigh of relief from the Ginebra bench and the Ginebra fans.
Tenorio banged away three triples and finished with 23 points, Mariano scattered 20 markers, including 12 in the payoff period while Slaughter collected double-double numbers with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
"We charged it to how badly we played the last time against Alaska. I can't think of a worse game we played for a long while," said Cone, recalling their 78-104 rout by the Alaska Aces a week ago.
"Things didn't fall our way, but we didn't quit. Hopefully that can get us going in great direction," Cone also said.
And the Ginebra bench chieftain lauded guys like Mariano and Jervy Cruz.
"We have nice contributions from guys we look beyond Greg and Japeth," he said. (SB)
Ginebra 100 - Tenorio 23, Mariano 20, Slaughter 18, Chan 13, Aguilar 11, Thompson 5, Cruz 4, Dela Cruz 4, Mercado 2, Caperal 0, Ferrer 0.
Phoenix 97 - Abueva 15, Kramer 14, Jazul 13, Chua 13, Wright 10, Marcelo 10, Perkins 9, Mallari 9, Revilla 2, Mendoza 2.
Quarters: 18-24, 40-46, 72-76, 100-97.