MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – After a pep talk from none other than the Living Legend himself Robert Jaworski, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel snatched Game 6 from the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers, 94-91, on Monday, February 10 at the SMART Araneta Coliseum to force a deciding Game 7 in the semifinals of the PLDT Home DSL Philippine Cup.
Before a 14,473 capacity crowd and with former Ginebra playing coach Jaworski looking on, Ginebra scratched and clawed their way against a gritty Mixers side, only to emerge victorious down the stretch thanks to good execution and defense.
The 34-year old shooting guard Mark Caguioa stepped up for Ginebra and hit two game-winning free throws with 16.2 seconds left to give Ginebra a hairline of a lead, 92-91.
A couple of defensive stops then put rookie bigman Greg Slaughter on the line for two shots to notch the final tally, leaving only two seconds for the Mixers to heave a shot, which was a long one from James Yap that wasn’t even close.
“We won because of defense,” said Ginebra head coach Ato Agustin. “We started pressuring them in the third quarter. I told them to be patient and cut the lead down slowly.”
Ginebra came up big in the third, finding ways to break the stingy San Mig Coffee defense, to pour in 32 points and head to the fourth down only by a thread, 73-74.
The Mixers kept trying to shake off the pesky Ginebra squad, going on spurts at various points to notch leads of 14 points–48-34 at the 2:25 mark of the second–and 11 points, 50-39, nearing the close of the first half.
San Mig Coffee was simply better than Ginebra for the entire first half and even on many points in the fourth. The Mixers’ defense was impenetrable. So much so that even a simple bounce pass proved difficult to do for Ginebra as they could not space the floor at all.
At the break Jaworski promptly made his way into Ginebra’s locker room to try and inspire his former team.
“You can do it against this team. But it seems they are shooting shots that are uncontested. And you’re just too eager,” Jaworski told the players.
“Do your job and you’ll be fine. And enjoy the game and give it to the public who supports you,” he added.
Agustin said that was a big boost for Ginebra coming into the second half.
“Napakalaking bagay. It made the players inspired. Syempre yung ‘Never Say Die’ galing sa kanya (Jaworski). Tapos meron kaming 6th man, yung crowd.” (It was a really big thing. It made the players inspired. Of course the ‘Never Say Die’ attitude came from him. And we had our 6th man, the crowd.)
Come Game 7, Agustin says more intensity and aggressiveness can be expected from his team.
“We need to pressure them. Kailangan mataas yung aggressiveness namin and yung intensity,” he said.
“Sinabi ko nga sa kanila kanina before the start of the game, ‘Don’t save your energy. Marami tayong player. Magpagod kayo. Papalitan namin kayo then babalik kayo sa game. Trust each other.'” (We need to have a high level of aggressiveness and intensity. I told them before the start of the game, ‘Don’t save your energy. We have plenty of players. Work hard. We will replace you then put you back in the game.’)
Turnovers, however, are still among the biggest thorns on Ginebra’s side as San Mig Coffee continues to force those miscues. In this game the turnovers on Ginebra amounted to 18, which translated to 17 points for the Mixers.
LA Tenorio, who missed two potential chances to send Game 5 into overtime, made up for his mistakes with 16 points and 3 assists. Caguioa and Slaughter finished with 21 and 20 points, respectively.
For the Mixers it was Marc Pingris who took charge with 20 markers, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. PJ Simon chipped in 17 points as well.
Simon could have been the hero for the Mixers as he made 5 straight points from the two-minute mark up until 1:24 on a 3-point play and a one-hander to give the Mixers a slight cushion, 91-88. But the 7-foot Slaughter also made a basket of his own to keep Ginebra alive, before Caguioa erased the slim Mixers lead.
Meanwhile, Mark Barroca and Ian Sangalang had 14 and 12 markers, respectively for the Mixers.
The deciding Game 7 will be played on Wednesday, February 12 at the SMART Araneta Coliseum where the winner will advance to the finals and face the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Friday, February 14 for Game 1.
Ginebra 94: Caguioa 21, Slaughter 20, Tenorio 16, Aguilar 13, Baracael 9, Helterbrand 5, Ellis 4, Reyes 4, Mamaril 2, Monfort 0, Urbiztondo 0.
San Mig Super Coffee 91: Pingris 20, Simon 17, Barroca 14, Sangalang 12, Reavis 9, Yap 9, Melton 5, Devance 3, Mallari 2, De Ocampo 0.
Quarterscores: 22-24, 41-50, 73-74, 94-91