Photo from PBA Images
MANILA, Philippines – In what was undoubtedly the most exciting game of this PBA season to date, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel was at peak “Never Say Die” mode by erasing an 18-point fourth quarter lead and escaping with a classic victory over rival Star in overtime, 92-89, on Christmas Day, December 25, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Trailing by 8 with 43 seconds left, Ginebra relied on the clutch play of veteran Sol Mercado and rookie Earl Scottie Thompson to force the extended period.
In the final seconds of OT, LA Tenorio punched his team’s ticket to the next round of the quarterfinals by hitting an open 3-pointer as time expired that sent Ginebra fans into pandemonium and Star to a heartbreaking defeat.
“One of the most amazing games I’ve ever been involved in,” Ginebra head coach Tim Cone said post-game, as he finished his first conference against his former team at 1-1.
“These guys really displayed a great heart,” he later added.
The improbable comeback magnified when Mercado nailed a triple that cut the lead to 77-72 with 32 seconds remaining. After James Yap split a visit to the foul stripe, Japeth Aguilar then hit a 3-ball of his own, making it a 78-75 game with 21 seconds left as the Ginebra crowd became even more boisterous.
After Mark Barroca hit two free throws to make it a 5-point contest, Mercado nailed another triple that cut the deficit to 80-78 with 12 seconds left. After a time-out, Barroca lost the bound during the inbound play, leading to a wide-open Thompson layup to tie the contest at 80 with 3 seconds left.
Star then called another time-out, but they once again lost the ball after the inbound. Unfortunately for Ginebra, Mercado missed a wide-open breakaway layup that could have won it at the buzzer at the end of regulation.
The first 3 minutes and 49 seconds of OT was an exchange of clutch shots, as both Mercado and Barroca took turns hitting two triples each, plus Tenorio and Alex Mallari hit their own 3-balls, leading to 6 made 3s and an 89-89 tie with 44 seconds to go.
After Tenorio missed a 3-ball with 44 seconds left, Star called a time-out but it went to waste as they committed a 24-second shot clock violation after the break.
Later on, Ginebra had 4 seconds remaining after Barroca committed his team’s last foul to give. After the inbound, Mercado found a wide open Tenorio after a scramble, and he hit his third triple of the night to end the contest.
According to PBA statistician Fidel Mangonon III, it was the first overtime game where all points in the extra 5-minute session came off 3-point field goals.
Tenorio finished with 11 points and 6 assists while Mercado had 17 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists off the bench. Thompson, a former NCAA MVP, had 9 points to go with 4 boards, while Greg Slaughter was limited to only 12 points and 4 boards.
On the other side, PJ Simon finished with 17 in Star’s final game of the conference, while Barroca and James Yap pitched in 11 and 10 points, respectively. Ian Sangalang also played well with 13 points off the bench.
Ginebra now advances to the second phase of the quarters where they will face GlobalPort on Sunday, December 27. The Batang Pier eliminated the Barako Bull Energy early on Christmas Day thanks to Terrence Romeo’s 33 points.
Barangay Ginebra (92): Mercado 17, Slaughter 12, Tenorio 11, Caguioa 10, Devance 10, Aguilar 9, Ellis 9, Thompson 9, Helterbrand 3, Cruz 2, Marcelo 0
Star (89): Simon 17, Sangalang 13, Barroca 11, Yap 10, Maliksi 9, Mallari 9, Melton 7, Reavis 4, Taha 4, Cruz 3, Pingris 2, Pascual J. 0, Torres 0
Quarter scores: 21-18, 38-37, 54-62, 80-80, 92-89 – Rappler.com