PBA Philippine Cup

Unlikely heroes take charge as Ginebra, NorthPort down Phoenix, Meralco

Martin Mendoza

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Unlikely heroes take charge as Ginebra, NorthPort down Phoenix, Meralco

STEPPING UP. Ginebra's Ralph Cu goes for a shot against Phoenix.


Birthday boy Ralph Cu waxes hot from beyond the arc to lift Barangay Ginebra past Phoenix, while JM Calma delivers the goods for NorthPort against Meralco

MANILA, Philippines – The Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings may have just found a gem in their rookie Ralph Cu. 

Thanks to Cu’s third-quarter explosion, Ginebra cruised to a 102-92 win over the Phoenix Fuel Masters for a 2-0 start in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday, March 10.

Cu, the 23rd pick in the 2023 PBA Draft, knocked down three of his game-high four treys in the opening minutes of the third frame to help the Gin Kings turn a slim 47-43 halftime lead into a comfortable 79-62 cushion heading into the final period.

The sharpshooting big man Cu, who celebrated his 27th birthday with his first Player of the Game honor, finished with 12 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block in over 18 minutes of play as a starter.

“I noticed that [Phoenix’s] defense was giving me the shot. They wanted me to shoot the ball so I just wanted to let them pay,” said Cu.

“I’m very grateful for the opportunity. I think this is the most opportunity I’ve had in my whole life.”

“In college I was a bench player so I just wanted to make the most out of the opportunities that are given to me,” added Cu, who played for the La Salle Green Archers in the UAAP and Ginebra’s PBA 3×3 team prior to joining the recent draft.  

Fresh from a career-high 32-point performance in their last outing, Jamie Malonzo, who is still playing with a black eye following his involvement in a restaurant fight late in February, topscored for the Gin Kings anew with 17 points, along with 10 rebounds.

Like Cu, Ginebra guards Stanley Pringle and John Pinto caught fire from long distance, knocking down three triples each to finish with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Pinto was also instrumental in the Gin Kings’ breakaway as he sank two of his three long bombs early in the third quarter, joining forces with Cu and Malonzo for six consecutive three-pointers during that span alone.

On the other side, Jason Perkins scored a team-high 14 points, followed by Javee Mocon’s 13.

The Fuel Masters, who played without injured star Tyler Tio, are off to a disappointing 0-2 start to the conference after a promising campaign in the Commissioner’s Cup where they managed to reach the semifinals.

Meanwhile, the NorthPort Batang Pier continued to flex their depth in the Philippine Cup as they defeated the Meralco Bolts for their third straight victory, 90-85.

After the Batang Pier banked on rookie center Cade Flores in their previous win against the Fuel Masters, JM Calma proved to be the unlikely hero this time around as he produced 16 points on an efficient 7-of-10 shooting and 8 rebounds.

Arvin Tolentino likewise finished with 16 points, but the NorthPort star shot a lowly 4-of-14 clip from the field.

With Joshua Munzon also struggling to find his rhythm on offense, Paul Zamar stepped up for the Batang Pier with 14 points, while Flores had another solid outing of 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 steals. 

The Batang Pier imposed their will on the defensive end as they forced Meralco to commit 25 turnovers. They managed to score 31 points from those turnovers, a stark contrast to the Bolts’ 12.

“That’s our challenge to the team. Those who play well on defense will play longer minutes,” said NorthPort tactician Bonnie Tan as his wards also recorded 18 steals in the win.

With NorthPort already on top by three possessions with 1:07 left to play, 88-81, Meralco showed signs of life as Aaron Black and Chris Newsome delivered back-to-back baskets to cut the deficit to just 3, 88-85, with only 8 seconds remaining. 

Unfortunately for the Bolts, Flores immediately sealed the win for the Batang Pier with an easy layup in transition after Newsome failed to complete on his three-point play.  

Black led the Bolts with 18 points, while Newsome added 15 in the loss.

NorthPort moved up to a 3-1 slate, while Meralco fell to 1-3. 

The Scores

First Game

NorthPort 90 – Calma 16, Tolentino 16, Zamar 14, Flores 13, Adamos 7, Lucero 7, Chan 7, Munzon 6, Yu 4, Rosales 0, Bulanadi 0, Paraiso 0.

Meralco 85 – Black 18, Newsome 15, Almazan 12, Quinto 8, Rios 6, Mendoza 6, Jose 6, Banchero 5, Maliksi 4, Torres 3, Hodge 2, Caram 0.

Quarters: 19-15, 43-43, 68-64, 90-85.

Second Game

Ginebra 102 – Malonzo 17, Pringle 13, Pinto 12, Cu 12, Standhardinger 12, Aguilar J. 9, Ahanmisi 7, Pessumal 6, David 5, Onwubere 5, Tenorio 4, Gumaru 0, Aguilar R. 0.

Phoenix 92 – Perkins 14, Mocon 13, Manganti 11, Tuffin 10, Garcia 9, Jazul 8, Rivero 7, Soyud 6, Muyang 4, Alejandro 4, Daves 2, Verano 2, Camacho 2, Lalata 0.

Quarters: 23-24, 47-43, 79-62, 102-92. 

– Rappler.com 

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