Barangay Ginebra San Miguel held off a furious Meralco comeback in the fourth quarter to claim a 99-93 victory that tied their PBA Governors’ Cup Finals series at 1-1 Friday, April 8 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Crucial baskets from Justin Brownlee and the relentless rebound effort of Scottie Thompson allowed the Gin Kings to thwart the Bolts’ bid to erase a 20-point deficit and even the best-of-seven affair before a crowd of 12,248.
The Bolts ran out of gas after giving the Gin Kings excruciating behind a career performance from Aaron Black and settled for a split going into the series’ third game set Sunday at the same venue.
It was a big recovery for Ginebra after being handed a 104-91 defeat by Meralco when the fourth title duel got going two nights earlier at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Brownlee scored 36 points on 12-of-18 shooting which is a significant improvement from his 7-of-20 clip despite dropping in the opener.
He made what coach Tim Cone described as the biggest play of the game, taking the rebound away from Chris Banchero to score an easy two-handed dunk that rocked the Pasay City showplace with 1:22 left in the contest.
At the time, Ginebra was holding a 94-91 lead with Thompson missing a three-point attempt.
“The steal on Banchero was probably the play of the game,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone. “But we had to make some spectacular plays down the stretch to win this game, and that’s the way a series is going to be. Tonight it was our night.”
It was the play that deflected the Meralco side, which battled back from being down 20 as Black turned in a career-high 24 points.
His three-point shots, fastbreak layups and a few assists helped the Bolts pull within two twice at 86-84 and 88-86 midway in the payoff period.
Three-point plays by Christian Standhardinger and Brownlee, however, gave Ginebra some breathing room for 94-86 before Meralco scored five in a row, ending on Chris Newsome’s triple to pull within three.
A stop set up a chance for Meralco to cut it to one or score a three-pointer to tie, but Raymond Almazan’s open attempt from the arc hit the back rim, setting the stage for the key Brownlee moment.
Thompson added 16 points and 12 rebounds, including one during the fourth that beat a pair of Meralco players. LA Tenorio had 13 points despite a 5-of-12 shooting, Standhardinger added 12 points and 11 rebounds and Nards Pinto made 10.
Bishop cooled off after scoring 14 in the opening period and finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds while Banchero scored 14 in 21 minutes off the bench.
Allein Maliksi had a disappearing act for the Bolts, going scoreless after firing 22 in Game 1. Maliksi missed all seven attempts in 15 minutes.
GINEBRA 99 — Brownlee 36, Thompson 16, Renorio 13, Standhardinger 12, Pinto 10, Chan 7, Mariano 5, Salado 0, Onwubere 0, Devance 0, Ayaay 0.
MERALCO 93 — Bishop 31, Black 24, Banchero 14, Newsome 7, Almazan 6, Quinto 5, Hodge 4, Baclao 2, Belo 0, Hugnatan 0.
Quarters: 20-23, 60-42, 82-71, 99-93.