MANILA: Alaska has just dug Barangay Ginebra a grave that’s three games deep.
The Aces, despite going scoreless from the field in the last eight minutes, went on to post a 91-88 victory over the Gin Kings Sunday night for a 3-0 lead in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series that sent home a huge chunk of more than 19,000 fans at the Araneta Coliseum.
“We kind of got lulled into sleep thinking that the game was over in the last eight minutes,” Alaska coach Tim Cone told reporters when asked what went wrong after they took an 88-65 spread courtesy of a basket by Mark Borboran.
“We know better. Ginebra does not quit. Ever,” he added. “They made a tremendous comeback. Luckily, we made stops in the end.”
Alaska looked to have finished off the Kings with that Borboran basket in the final 8:06.
But like before, the Kings seemed to have drawn inspiration from the huge crowd, which egged them on relentlessly until they came with 88-90 after a Mark Caguioa basket entering the final 33 seconds.
Ronald Tubid actually had a chance to tie the game for the Kings, stealing off LA Tenorio after that Caguioa basket and being sent to the line with nine seconds remaining. And in a very uncharacteristic way, the flamboyant off-guard missed both charities.
Ginebra then tried stopping the clock and sent Reynel Hugnatan to the free throw line after a duty foul by JC Intal with the Alaska forward splitting his charities and giving the Kings one last chance to nail the equalizer with seven seconds to go.
But Ginebra missed two triples inside that span of time - one each coming from Caguioa and Sunday Salvacion - practically dooming their demise in the series as no team in the history of the PBA has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.
“I’ve been 20 years in the business and I’ve seen a lot of things,” said Cone, still trying not to write off the Kings and give his Aces a false sense of security.
“Ginebra was down (in this game), and they had no reason to believe that they could win yet they did come back,” Cone added.”Being down 0-3, they’re still going to believe. The last time I was 3-0 up we lost Game 4. I think I’m smart enough to communicate that to my players.”
Meanwhile, in a complete reversal of forms in the second game, San Miguel played with utter dominance on both ends and scored an 88-76 win over Purefoods for a 2-1 lead in the other Final Four pairing.
Dondon Hontiveros and Jay Washington scored 15 points each, three others scored 10 or better and the San Miguel defense made the Tender Juicy Giants look silly from the outside in the win that was more lopsided than the final score indicates.
“The main thing was the effort we put in. We went back to basics,” said San Miguel coach Siot Tanquingcen. “We went back to playing the defensive game that made us win a lot of games in the elimination round.
“We’re more committed on defense in this game than the last time,” added Tanquingcen. “In Game Four, we intend to stay in business. We’ve learned our lesson (in Game Two). We must not commit the same mistake again.”
Purefoods Ryan Gregorio admitted to the fact that the loss stemmed from their inability to knock down the shots when they needed them.
“One glaring stats for today’s game was our inability to score. That’s basically the story of the game,” said Gregorio. “We’re taking a rest tomorrow (Monday). I told the boys to return with their legs ready Tuesday and be ready for the war on Wednesday.”
The tenacity of the San Miguel defense couldn’t have been more evident on the way the Purefoods hotshots shot in the game.
Former MVP James Yap was 0-of-6, Paul Artadi 0-of-5, Kerby Raymundo and Roger Yap both 0-of-3 while Rico Maierhofer and PJ Simon both 0-of-1 from the three-point area, as they threw up bricks all night which partly aided the San Miguel win. In the end, Purefoods was only able to convert two triple tries, both courtesy of Game 2 hero Nino Canaleta.
“If we can’t shoot from the outside, San Miguel will clog the lane, forcing us to low-percentage shots,” said Gregorio. “Partly, our weariness manifested again. We didn’t have the usual lift from beyond the three-point area.”
San Miguel led by as many as 17 in the third quarter with the Giants coming closest at six points inside the final two minutes.
Games 4 of both series are scheduled Wednesday also at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.