Ginebra blows 21-point lead in meltdown vs Barako Bull

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) — Barako Bull Energy never said die. 

Comprised of a number of former Barangay Ginebra San Miguel players, Barako Bull came back from 21 points down and outplayed the crowd favorites in the endgame for an 82-79 win in the 2016 Philippine Cup on Saturday, October 31 at the Mall of Asia Arena. 

JC Intal, who played for the Gin Kings from 2009 to 2012, led the Energy with 22 points, 5 rebounds and two steals. He also shot 3-for-8 from downtown in a show of immense confidence which head coach Koy Banal attributed to his recent stint with the national team. 

RR Garcia added 16 points, 10 of which he poured in the payoff period. He also buried the 3-pointer that shoved Barako Bull ahead permanently, 74-73, with 2:51 remaining. 

"I thought we did a good job on the defensive end," Banal said. "We reminded the guys during the preparation that it will all start from the defensive end. We were dead last last season and that was the challenge for the team – to really do well on the defensive end." 

The Energy, which trailed by 27-6 to start the contest and later on 32-11 in the second period, orchestrated 3 straight steals in the final 3 minutes and emerged with a comfortable 80-73 lead following a Garcia basket with 1:43 to go.

LA Tenorio later breathed life into Ginebra with a triple that cut the deficit to 80-79 with 12.5 ticks remaining but gutsy guard Garcia sank a pair of free throws to ice the game. Ginebra aimed to force overtime in the final 8 seconds but veteran Mark Caguioa muffed the ball for a turnover that sealed their meltdown.

"All the teams are really pumped up when they face a team like Ginebra, the most popular team in the league," remarked Banal. "I give the credit to the players because they prepared themselves mentally and emotionally for this game. Perhaps coming in they were too excited that's why we were down by 20 points but we got our bearings back."

Ex-Gin King Mac Baracael had 8 points in his first match against his old team. Chito Lanete contributed 8 points as well but was taken out of the ballgame with 1:03 left after getting inadvertently hit by Tenorio's arm caught in a screen.  

According to assistant physical therapist Mark Mabazza, Lanete is now being checked at the San Juan de Dios Hospital with his right eyelid swollen and red. Lanete also suffered a cut under his eye and bled on the court. He finished with 8 points, 4 rebounds and two assists. 

Despite having 7 former Ginebra players on their squad, Banal said there was no specific intent on their part to prove anything. 

"If you are so eager to prove something, that in itself will make you too emotional and tighter so that's not our motivation," Banal explained in Filipino. "We treated this game just like we're going to face a Blackwater or Mahindra team. Same game plan, same game face, same emotional preparation."

Big man Greg Slaughter had a game-high 27 points and a career-high 26 rebounds.

Tenorio added 12 markers, 5 boards, two assists and two steals for Ginebra, which lost its first two games.

The PBA's winningest coach Tim Cone remains winless as head coach of a team he is tasked to lead to its first title since 2008. —