It’s Beer vs. Gin! Ginebra dismantles Star, takes last PBA final seat

MANILA, Philippines – 2017 All Filipino Cup is all set! The San Miguel Beermen who eliminated the Talk 'N Text (TNT) last night are facing the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings after the latter won the Game 7 of the Manila-Clasico and ousted Star Hotshot, 89-76, on Tuesday, February 22 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Sol Mercado PBA Finals Brgy. Ginebra
Photo courtesy of PBA official website.
There was no more tomorrow for both Star Hotshots and Brgy. Ginebra Gin Kings. Both teams were really hungry to get back to the finals and face the league-leader San Miguel Beermen. It was an all-out war!

Inspired by Ginebra Living Legend, Robert Jaworski, the Gin Kings rained and drained threes for a dozen-point- lead early in the opening salvo of the do-or-die Game 7 courtesy of Joe Devance, Sol Mercado and Scottie Thompson. Their sister team on the other hand, kept struggling from all ends of the floor. Turn-overs were piling up left and right that forced Coach Chito Victolero to call a back-to-back timeouts to talk things over and find answers for Ginebra’s scoring onslaught.

Hotshots managed to bring the lead down to just 10 from as high as 16 as the 1st quarter buzzer sounded, 26-16.

Nothing much has changed for the Star as they came off the quarter break. Midway of the 2nd, Ginebra’s lead once again shot up to 15. But Jean Marc Pingris, the heart and soul of the team, muscled his way up on both offense and defense to fire-up his platoon. The “Pinoy Sakuragi’s” hustle paid off as the Hotshots found themselves behind the Kings by just 9 points. This time, it was Coach Tim Cone’s turn to call a ceasefire to ice the Star.

As the Hotshots gained their momentum, Ginebra big man Japeth Aguilar showed his mid-range jumpers to bring back the double-digit lead. However, Allein Maliksi retaliated from the outside to counter Aguilar’s timely contributions.

After the first 24 minutes of the game, Ginebra was up 45-36.

The start of the 3rd period was more balanced in terms of scoring as both teams traded basket after basket courtesy of Allein Maliksi and Sol Mercado. Despite of the offensive efforts of Maliksi with 22 points already under his name approaching the 6th minute-mark of the penultimate quarter, the Gins were still in total control and maintained a comfortable 10-point lead.

Refusing to give-up, Coach Victolero gambled by fielding in his super rookie Jio Jalalon and back-up center Rafi Reavis. Luckily, his combo gave him the result that he wanted and they were able to trim the lead to just 4, 65-61 after the 3rd.

Obviously, it was all Star Hotshots during the 3rd, Ginebra all of a sudden lost its sting and let Sol Mercado do the scoring chores alone.

Marc Pingris took advantage of the front court and found a mismatch against a less-experienced big man Dave Marcelo. After seeing the loophole under the basket, Coach Cone pulled out Marcelo and replace him with the lengthy Japeth Aguilar to protect the rim.

Tim Cone made the right decision to put Aguilar back, in less than a minute, his team got most of the boards and regained the lead, 73-65 with 7:30 remaining in the ball game.

Two-minute warning has come and the Star’s chances in winning the Manila Clasico was slowly dimming as Ginebra valiantly sustained its 10-point lead. Star fans clamored, where were Paul Lee and Peter June Simon at? Both superstars’ presence were never felt in the game and Ginebra capitalized on it big time.

The Gins played smart basketball in the last few minutes of the game as they tightened-up their defense and melted the clock so that the Stars can’t catch up and make a miracle comeback.

The final horn sounded and the whole MOA Arena was shaken up because of the Ginebra! Ginebra! Chants. The Gin Kings copped the “W” 89-76 and marched onto the championships for the 2nd straight time. Sol Mercado exerted an all-around game with 23 game-high points.

San Miguel vs Ginebra Finals starts on Friday, February 24 live on TV 5 and Aksyon TV5.

--Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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