Barangay Ginebra made sure that its reign won’t end by beating Phoenix Super LPG, 95-85, to book the last ticket to the 2021 Honda PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals, Saturday evening at the DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
The defending champions have clinched the no. 8 seed for the next round, and will face the top-ranked TNT Tropang Giga in a twice-to-win disadvantage.
“This isn’t what we expected, we didn’t expect to be in this kind of game coming into this thing, but you have a choice — You either keep going or you back off, and our guys decided to keep going,” said head coach Tim Cone.
Prince Caperal provided a huge lift for the depleted Gin Kings as last season’s Most Improved Player turned in his best performance this conference with 19 points on a 42-percent clip from the field in 30 minutes as a starter.
“We started Prince for the first time, I told him yesterday I was giving him the start, I told him we need to find a way to get your confidence going so we’re gonna start you,” Cone said of the 6-foot-6 slotman.
Reigning BPC Stanley Pringle produced 17 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. Christian Standhardinger made 15 points and 12 boards, and Jared Dillinger added 13 as four of the five starters finished in twin digits.
“We just need to get back to keeping things simple,” offered the league’s most accomplished mentor with 23 championships.
The Barangay were behind early in the second frame, until Jeff Chan and Dillinger connived for five straight to put their side up, 31-28. The others then went on to contribute, and they were up by 11 at the turn.
Their foes, though, still tried to keep within striking distance, until Pringle and MJ Ayaay joined hands for eight unanswered points to inflate Ginebra’s lead to 14, 71-57, approaching the three-minute mark of the third quarter.
The lead went on to reach as high as 17 twice, but the Fuel Masters made a last-ditch effort to come back. A 12-2 run capped by a Jason Perkins three-pointer cut the gap to just seven, 85-92, with 2:15 to go.
Pringle, however, responded immediately with a lay-up to widen the lead to nine, and the opposition could not come any closer as it could no longer buy a basket. An Aljon Mariano split with 13.8 ticks left settled the final count.
“I thought we played a really good defensive game until we got tired in the last four to six minutes of the fourth quarter, and our defense started to dissipate a bit. But prior to that, I thought we really played good defense,” Cone said.
Defense was definitely key for Ginebra as it limited Phoenix stars Jason Perkins and Matthew Wright to just 15 and 14 markers, respectively. Both players shot just a combined 10-of-36 from the floor.
“We did a good defensive job on Matthew Wright, and I thought we defended Perkins — Christian did a great job on defending Perkins today,” Cone said.
It was truly a bitter pill to swallow for the Fuel Masters, considering that they were one of the top two squads in last year’s bubble play in Clark — just behind the crowd darlings — and were just a win away from the Finals.
The young franchise was without forwards Vic Manuel and Justin Chua. The former is hounded by a groin injury while the reigning Top Bubble D-Fender was out in accordance with health and safety protocols.
Ginebra (95) – Caperal 19, Pringle 17, Standhardinger 15, Dillinger 13, Tenorio 9, Devance 8, Mariano 8, Ayaay 4, Chan 2.
Phoenix Super LPG (85) – Perkins 15, Banchero 14, Wright 14, Jazul 12, Pascual 11, Demusis 9, Muyang 5, Rios 3, Garcia 2, Calisaan 0, Melecio 0.
Quarterscores: 22-20, 49-38, 79-66, 95-85.