The Barangay Ginebra San Miguel avoided sinking into the tangle of teams with a 3-4 slate, after drubbing the Blackwater Elite to go back above the .500 mark, 89-79, Sunday evening at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
Six early points from Greg Slaughter helped Ginebra to a 9-2 start, but the Elite were able to respond to the Gin Kings’ inside dominance by tightening their own defensive press. Mike Cortez and import MJ Rhett led the Blackwater charge that culminated in an 11-3 run to take the lead at the halfway mark. Now struggling to regain composure around the perimeter, the Gin Kings were unable to take back control of the pace. At the end of the first twelve minutes, Blackwater led by a thin margin, 18-16.
There was no change in the complexion of the game as the second quarter unfolded, with the two teams settling for easy shots around the perimeter. Blackwater managed to put up enough pressure to hold on to the lead, with their advantage growing to as much as seven in the quarter. The spark Ginebra needed to regain control of the game came late in the quarter, when baskets from Scottie Thompson and Japeth Aguilar led to a 32-all deadlock with just a minute left. Thompson gave the Ginebra faithful something to cheer about just before the buzzer, hitting a triple that gave the Gin Kings a 35-32 lead at halftime.
Still hot from the previous quarter’s late surge, the duo of Thompson and Aguilar recommenced their assault from all points the arc as the second half opened. The lead ballooned to as much as eleven, as the Elite scrambled for a way to trouble a Ginebra side that had regained their composure. Undaunted by the Gin Kings’ sudden focus on offense, MJ Rhett continued to attack the defense on all ends, leading the Elite to trim the lead to four, numerous times late in the quarter. By the end of three quarters, however, the lead would still remain with Ginebra, 65-59.
With the Blackwater gunners unable to summon their usual bravado from the three-point line, Ginebra continued to hold on to the lead, delivering on both ends of the court. Veteran guards LA Tenorio and Mark Cagiuoa helped keep the points coming, joining the scoring fray to push the Gin Kings’ lead. With two minutes left, the lead was back to double-digits, 84-73. A breakaway triple from Tenorio, and successful defensive stops by the Ginebra bigs, gave the Gin Kings some breathing room to slow down the pace and focus on protecting the lead in the final minute.
LA Tenorio was named Best Player of the Game, racking up 20 points, 4 rebounds, and 8 assists. He hit 5 of 10 2-point attempts and 3 of 6 attempts from the arc. Othyus Jeffers added 23 points, 14 rebounds, and 6 assists. Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar chipped in 16 and 14 markers respectively.
MJ Rhett led the losing side with 24 points and 23 boards. Carlo Lastimosa led the Blackwater locals with 19 markers.
Ginebra improve to 4-3, joining the Alaska Aces, Meralco Bolts, and San Miguel Beermen as one of the four teams above the .500 mark. Blackwater, meanwhile, slide to 3-4, a slate shared with the Star Hotshots, Mahindra Enforcers, NLEX Road Warriors, and Talk ‘N Text.
BGSM will next face the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Saturday, March 19 in Panabo City. On the other hand, the Blackwater Elite will next face the Meralco Bolts on Friday, March 18 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Ginebra (89) – Jeffers 23, Tenorio 20, Slaughter 16, Aguilar 14, Mercado 5, Thompson 5, Devance 4, Caguioa 2, Helterbrand 0.
Blackwater (79) – Rhett 24, Lastimosa 19, Cortez 12, Dela Cruz 9, Gamalinda 4, Sena 4, Cervantes 3, Erram 2, Tiongson 2.
Quarterscores: 16-18, 35-32, 65-59, 89-79