With its top locals stepping up to the big challenge, crowd favorite Barangay Ginebra overcame the abrupt exit of import Paul Harris in the second half and defeated GlobalPort on Saturday night 93-81 to get its title bid going in the 2016 PBA Governors Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Already without towering center Greg Slaughter, who underwent an ankle surgery two months ago, the Gin Kings absorbed another big blow late in the third canto when the 6-foot-5 Harris suffered a compound fracture on his right thumb with 1:03 left in the third frame, with the Batang Pier up by a slim 61-60 lead.
Good thing for Ginebra, veterans Japeth Aguilar, Sol Mercado and Chris Ellis conspired in their strong finish, combining for 24 of the team’s final 31 points while taking turns in putting the clamps down on GlobalPort import Dominique Sutton and the prized backcourt duo of Terrence Romeo and Stanley Pringle.
“We won the battle today and I hope we didn’t lose the war,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone, keeping his fingers crossed that Harris will have a positive feedback from the doctors of St. Lukes Medical Center where he proceeded for immediate X-ray tests.
The 6-foot-9 Aguilar flashed the sharp form that was hardly seen from him during Gilas Pilipinas’ campaign in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament last week, coming through with 21 points, six rebounds, two assists and a pair of blocks, providing the needed inside presence for the Gin Kings.
Not to be outdone were Mercado and Ellis, who combined for 22 markers, eight boards, five dimes and three steals while holding their ground the Batang Pier’s top guns. Even Ginebra forward Joe Devance did his share, flirting with a triple-double performance of 10 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
“Everybody really fought tonight. It seemed tonight that we played that ‘never-say-die’s spirit. That Robert Jaworski-type spirit,” said Cone, referring to the Ginebra icon known for his all-out play during his heyday.
Pringle, a former top overall pick, led all scorers with 26 points but hardly make his presence felt in the fourth canto while Sutton and Romeo struggled to get their game going, making just 13 of their combined 40 attempts from the field for a 33-point effort. – By Jerome Lagunzad
GINEBRA (93) – Aguilar 21, Harris 14, Mercado 12, Devance 10, Ellis 10, Tenorio 10, Caguioa 6, Helterbrand 3, Cruz 2, Marcelo 2, Mariano 2, Thompson 1.
GLOBALPORT (81) – Pringle 26, Sutton 18, Romeo 15, Yeo 8, Isip 5, Taha 4, Kramer 3, Dehesa 2, Banal 0, Paredes 0, Pascual 0.
Quarterscores: 25-30, 44-47, 62-61, 93-81