PBA Finals: Ginebra reverses fate, levels series at 1-1 after crushing SMB

MANILA, Philippines – It was a literally nail-biting game and probably one of the best Finals - Game 2 in PBA history. Ginebra almost blew a 26 point lead but still managed to pull off the win 124-118 in an overtime against the San Miguel Beermen on Sunday evening, February 26, 2017.

Ginebra reverses fate, levels series at 1-1 after crushing SMB
Photo Credit: PBA.ph
“It’s hard to win in a Ginebra country.” These were words of concern uttered by San Miguel Beermen Head Coach Leo Austria who hailed from Sariaya Quezon pertaining to game number two at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City.

As expected, Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings, spearheaded by Coach Tim Cone adjusted their game plan after a humiliating game number one loss. Unlike their first encounter, the Kings erupted too early and rained threes in front of Ginebra-crazy crowd courtesy of LA Tenorio, Joe Devance and Sol Mercado.

At the end of the first 12 minutes of the ball game, Ginebra looked so sharp and felt the winning spirit with an 8-point advantage over their sister-team-rivals.

After the quarter break, Coach Cone’s boys still carried the scoring momentum from the first especially at the rainbow territory. Ex-UST Tiger and rookie Kevin Ferrer joined the scoring spree with his own back-to-back three pointers.

San Miguel on the other hand, struggled to find their rhythm and found themselves way behind by 15 big markers with 7 more minutes remaining in the half. Still, rookie Ferrer continued to pour baskets that defined his freshman year in the pro basketball league.

Compared to their previous game, the Beermen seemed to have lost their sting as they kept shooting blanks even from the open ones.

The greatest revelation in this game was: Tim Cone had found the antidote to “The Kraken”. June Mar Fajardo met his kryptonite in the persons of Japeth Aguilar and, again, Kevin Ferrer. The Ginebra wing men shadowed the SMB behemoth from one side to another and denied him of any open post-up and second chance opportunities.

Double-teaming a player usually opened up at least one player from the outside or any strong spot. This was risk that Coach Cone had to take in order to neutralize the 6’10” Fajardo. Lucky for him and his wards, San Miguel’s legit shooters had abruptly dimmed. Not Alex Cabagnot, not Chris Ross and not even Arwind Santos can connect behind the arc or even in the paint.

Ginebra ended the first half with a 24 big point lead, 67-43. Super rookie Kevin Ferrer topped all players with 18 humongous points with 5/6 field goal shooting.

It was a good 2nd half start for San Miguel as they scored 7 quick points in just a minute. Good sign as well as June Mar Fajardo began to demolish the double-team defense on him while Arwind Santos finally felt his pulse from the outside that helped trim the Ginebra lead from the highest of 26 down to just 11 points.

“Defense wins championships”. June Mar Fajardo, though still not in double figures, provided extreme rim protection as he blocked both Scottie Thompson and his arc nemesis Japeth Aguilar. Those huge blocks paved ways for the Beermen to further alter the margin to a single-digit with 7 more minutes remaining in the third.

1st half sleeper Marcio Lassiter finally woke up from a very long hibernation and managed to close the gap to 81-76. But wait, there was more, Lassiter dropped more bombs. He even put his defender, Sol Mercado scrambling on the floor for a step-back three with matching “Salt Bae” hand gesture. Unfortunately, after that “Salt Bae Trey”, he got ejected for taunting. Prior to the unsportsmanlike call, Lassiter was whistled for flagrant 1 for clipping Kevin Ferrer in the dying minutes of 2nd period. Nevertheless, the Beermen were just downed by a shot, 85-82 entering to the final canto of game number two.

Fajardo sat down since the latter part of the penultimate quarter due to foul trouble. So, the middle part loosened and opened up which was enough for high-flying Chris Ellis to penetrate for a monster slam followed by a slash. Coach Austria had no other choice but to bring back Fajardo in.

June Mar had won his first encounter against Japeth, but tonight, the lanky forward made his revenge. He blocked Fajardo from one end and posterized him on the other with a two-handed gorilla dunk. Worst, June Mar picked-up his 5th foul with more than 9 minutes remaining in the game clock.

Even without Marcio Lassiter on the court, and June Mar Fajardo nursing his personal fouls on the bench, San Miguel continued to fight hard. Very timely, in the absence of Lassiter, Ronald Tubid bagged two long-distance shots for the equalizer, 93 apiece. Hold your horses, Tubid added 3 more points from the charity line plus an extra possession after he got fouled by Kevin Ferrer from the rainbow territory. Gabby Espinas converted the bonus possession into another 2 points for the lead, 98-95.

It was everybody’s ball game on the last 4 minutes. San Miguel consumed their remaining fouls in the quarter and handed the lead back to Ginebra 103-100.

Every player encounters an off night. Last Friday, it was Aguilar who had an awful game. Tonight, it was Fajardo’s turn. He got fouled out with just 10 points after pushing Joe Devance off the rebound battle.

60 ticks remaining in the ball game, Ginebra was up 106-103. But lo and behold, Arwind Santos once again drained another three for the 4th deadlock of the ball game. After that highlight, he fouled Aguilar in the middle and Japeth sank both foul shots for the lead, 108-106.

The Lucena crowd witnessed a quality finals for the record. After getting the Ginebra lead back, Gabby Espinas released a rare three pointer. And just like that, San Miguel had a 109-108 advantage with 18 seconds left.

Untimely turnover for the Kings. Joe Devance inbounded the ball from his team’s sideline, but unluckily, receiver Scottie Thompson slipped and Ronald Tubid stole the ball away. Ginebra had a chance as Thompson tried to atone his lapse and snatched the basketball from Arwind Santos. Thompson however missed the fast break layup but they kept the ball alive. Japeth Aguilar thought the clock was winding down fast and released a long two but missed it big time. Tubid got the board, got fouled and split the charities.

3.2 seconds left, SMB was up 110-108. LA Tenorio inbounded the ball and located Joe Devance on the floor. Devance drove from the right side, missed but followed it up and beat the buzzer for an over time. Tied at 110 all, both protagonists needed an extra 5 minutes to settle the score.

Earning his Coach’s trust, Kevin Ferrer started the OT and scored. Alex Cabagnot however retaliated for the tie but Scottie Thompson countered for the lead 114-112.

Just as before the coliseum announcer echoed the infamous last two minutes, Ronald Tubid took charge and made two straight threes for another deadlock 118 all.

At 1:28 mark, San Miguel suffered another casualty as Chris Ross called it a night after committing his 6th and last personal. Japeth Aguilar made both penalty shots seconded by Scottie Thompson’s high arching shot over the outstretched arms of Arwind Santos for 122-118 advantage.

Ginebra melted the clock and sealed the win, 124-118 after 53 minutes of intense basketball action. Scottie Thompson won the Best Player of the Game Award with astounding 18 points, 18 rebounds and 8 assists.

Game 3 will be held on March 1, 7:00PM at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. It will be aired live on TV 5. Live streaming will also be available on thesummitexpress.com.

--Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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