Down 17 early, Ginebra upends Star to reach PBA playoffs

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Barangay Ginebra San Miguel bucked a flat start and pulled away in the second half to upend rivals Star Hotshots, 116-103, in the 2016 PBA Governors' Cup on Sunday, August 28 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Gin Kings, who improved to 6-2, secured a playoffs spot to extend their PBA all-time record of 28 straight playoffs appearances, per PBA statistician Fidel Mangonon III.

Ginebra rallied from a 17-point second quarter deficit and stormed back in the second half on the strength of their signature fast-paced, high-energy plays.

Import Justin Brownlee paced Ginebra with 38 points and 8 rebounds while Japeth Aguilar added 21 points and 6 rebounds, including a series of highlight dunks towards the end with the result already set.

Sol Mercado remained a consistent force for coach Tim Cone, firing 3 triples for 14 points, 7 assists, and 4 rebounds. LA Tenorio wound up with 13 markers and 5 assists on top of his usual leadership to help steer Ginebra out of a slow start that allowed Star a 15-2 early lead.

"We were a little bit shell-shocked by how they came out and played us early," said Cone, who acknowledged the energetic Hotshots crowd that was part of a 16,460 gallery.

"It took us a while to get over and wear off the shock, and we were doing a lot of uncharacteristic things early in the game, especially defensively."

Ginebra struggled to get any offensive rhythm going as they battled foul trouble but came out firing in the third quarter as Tenorio tied the count at 67 on a lefty layup.

Aguilar got the crowd to its feet as he soared high for what could have been the go-ahead dunk but he blew his attempt. Tenorio then shoved Ginebra ahead, 70-67, with a booming stepback 3-pointer reminiscent of his Ateneo Blue Eagles days in the third.

The game was close to the end of the third but Ginebra's offensive onslaught continued early in the fourth, as back-up big man Jervy Cruz scored 8 straight points briding the last two quarters to help the Gin Kings pull away.

Brownlee and Mercado dropped 9 and 8 points, respectively, in the final frame to keep Star at bay.

Import Joel Wright had 31 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 steals including 3 highlight dunks.

PJ Simon dropped 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter including 4 triples, while Marc Pingris chipped in 13 points and 7 rebounds. RR Garcia added 10 as Star was unable to rally back in the end.

They continue to languish near the bottom of the standings, losing their 4th straight game in 7 outings. – Rappler.com