By Jonas Terrado
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
6:30 p.m. — Ginebra vs Meralco
(Series tied 1-1)
LUCENA CITY — Meralco regained its shooting touch behind contributions from unlikely sources to defeat Barangay Ginebra San Miguel 104-102 Friday night and tie the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals at 1-1 in this city.
The Bolts used the three-point arc to not only build a big lead but recover from a Ginebra comeback in the third quarter to even the series before a jampacked crowd at the Quezon Convention Center here.
Three nights after going a dismal 7-of-32, Meralco made 16 threes to set a franchise record for most in a Finals game with John Pinto launching the early onslaught with four in the first quarter.
Forward Nico Salva and center Bryan Faundo, rarely used throughout the conference, hit one each late to make it 82-76 Meralco at the end of the third, after Ginebra got back from a 63-46 halftime deficit to tie the count at 70-all.
Backup point guard Anjo Caram also had one in the fourth before chief playmaker Baser Amer launched a pair of long toms in the final minutes that made it 101-91 for the Bolts, 2:13 remaining in the fourth.
“This is all about trying to even the series, get it 1-1,” said Meralco coach Norman Black. whose team will head to Game 3 on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum with renewed confidence after losing the opener 91-87 three nights ago.
“We know we have to go back on Sunday and play in Manila, and we’re not gonna have very much rest so this is a big win for us. We cannot afford to go 0-2,” he added.
Pinto scored all of his 12 points in the first quarter that saw Meralco bucking a 13-6 deficit at the start to lead 36-21.
Salva had nine points, including two open jumpers moments after being inserted for the first time with 9:14 to go in the third. He, Amer and Faundo hit four threes in the final two minutes as the Bolts got the lead back 82-86 entering the fourth.
Caram’s three over nine minutes remaining put the Bolts ahead 85-77, before relinquishing point guard duties to Amer, whose a pair of threes virtually seal the deal for Meralco.
Ginebra did make the final score respectable with some late threes from Justin Brownlee and LA Tenorio, but it was all too late.
The performances of Pinto, Salva, Caram and Faundo keyed Meralco’s 29 bench points that gave import Allen Durham the much-needed support. Durham had 21 points, 18 rebounds and six assists, but had to work for his baskets against a box-and-one defense Black pointed out.
Amer and Newsome scored 17 points each, with the latter adding seven assists.
Brownlee scored 35 points but shot 10-of-26 from the field. Despite the numbers, Ginebra failed to give its hardworking import the offensive support in the first half that led to the deficit.
Stanley Pringle caught fire in the third, scoring 10 of his 23 points, with Japeth Aguilar and Tenorio combining for 14 in the same period. But their efforts went to waste as Meralco was able to restore control until the final buzzer.
MERALCO 104 — Durham 21, Amer 17, Newsome 17, Almazan 15, Pinto 12, Salva 9, Caram 5, Quinto 5, Faundo 3, Hodge 0, Hugnatan 0, Maliksi 0.
GINEBRA 102 — Brownlee 35, Pringle 23, Aguilar 18, Tenorio 10, Slaughter 6, Thompson 4, Caguioa 4, Mariano 2, Devance 0, Caperal 0, Dela Cruz 0.
Quarters: 36-21; 63-46; 82-76; 104-102.