Barangay Ginebra San Miguel broke Meralco’s heart once again behind a Scottie Thompson triple to escape with an 83-80 win in the deciding fifth game of their semifinal series Friday to arrange a PBA Philippine Cup title showdown with TNT.
Thompson scored a corner three off Bong Quinto with 0.6 seconds left as the Kings dealt the Bolts another playoff defeat after a hard-fought encounter inside the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center.
Chris Newsome’s Hail Mary attempt went nowhere as time expired, sparking wild celebrations from the Ginebra contingent while prompting coach Tim Cone to heave a sigh of relief.
“From a coaching standpoint, it’s better to be lucky than good,” said Cone. “And tonight I just feel very lucky.”
Ginebra had to recover from a nine-point deficit (44-35) in the third and six (71-65) in the fourth in order to pull off a gritty win, its fourth against Meralco in as many playoff series under Cone.
The Kings also had to lean on their defense to force the Bolts in three straight turnovers that enabled them to turn a 73-69 deficit into a 76-73 after a Thompson tip-in with 1:51 to go.
Ginebra later led 80-77 but Bong Quinto found an open Reynel Hugnatan off the inbound to hit an open three, 14 seconds left, setting the stage for Thompson’s heroics.
Resident closer Stanley Pringle milked the clock while being guarded by Nards Pinto before finding Thompson in the corner the winning shot that gave Ginebra a spot in the finals for the 27th time in franchise history.
For Meralco, it fell short on the opportunity to beat another title contender and forge an unlikely championship duel with TNT in a battle between two teams owned by Manny V. Pangilinan.
Instead, it will be a corporate rivalry between San Miguel Corporation’s crowd darlings and MVP’s flagship franchise which begins at 6 p.m. Sunday inside the Smart Clark Giga City bubble.
Ginebra and TNT faced off for just the third time ever, the two teams splitting their two previous meetings. The Kings won in the 2004-05 Philippine Cup while the Tropang Giga took the 2011 Commissioner’s Cup as the Talk ’N Text Tropang Texters.
Thompson finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists while Pringle scored 22 points while grabbing eight rebounds even as Japeth Aguilar and LA Tenorio added 14 and 12 points.
Chris Newsome had 15 points, six rebounds and six assists, Quinto and Cliff Hodge had 14 points apiece even as Hugnatan and Allein Maliksi scored 12 points each for the Bolts.
GINEBRA 83 — Pringle 22, Thompson 20, Tenorio 14, Aguilar 12, Caperal 5, Mariano 5, Devance 2, Dillinger 3, Tolentino 0, Chan 0.
MERALCO 80 — Newsome 15, Hodge 14, Quinto 14, Maliksi 12, Hugnatan 12, Jackson 4, Almazan 4, Amer 3, Black 2, Jamito 0, Pinto 0.
Quarters: 17-14, 33-31, 55-59, 83-80.