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PBA: Ginebra pockets No. 1 spot

Barangay Ginebra’s Japeth Aguilar blocks Globalport’s Kelly Nabong during their PBA game last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. The Kings won, 108-92. (Tony Pionilla)

Barangay Ginebra’s Japeth Aguilar blocks Globalport’s Kelly Nabong during their PBA game last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. The Kings won, 108-92. (Tony Pionilla)

by Tito S. Talao

Games Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
3:30 p.m. – Meralco vs Petron
5:45 p.m. – Air21 vs Rain or Shine

Manila, Philippines – There was no need for Mark Caguioa to bail out Barangay Ginebra San Miguel this time. Globalport rookie Terrence Romeo’s failure to issue a challenge like before made it unnecessary.

After figuring in a fierce shootout when they first met, with Caguioa rescuing the Kings from a red-hot Romeo, the two appeared in less stellar roles last night as Barangay Ginebra overpowered Globalport, 108-92, to clinch the first twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinal playoffs of the PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

At 11-2, the league-leading Kings will face the 8th seed team in the playoffs next week. A win there would send them to the best-of-7 semifinals; a loss would necessitate a knockout.

Ato Agustin, the Ginebra coach, said that although a win no longer is as imperative, they still are looking to wrap up the elimination round on a bright note when they take on defending champion Talk ‘N Text Sunday.

“Hahabulin pa rin namin yung panalo kasi pang-build ng confidence yon,” said Agustin.

The Kings had that in abundance against the Batang Pier, who slipped to 5-9 at solo 8th spot, with their fate hinged on the outcome of the Alaska (4-9)-Barako Bull (5-8) game tomorrow.

Six players struck for 10 points or more, with Greg Slaughter posting his eighth double-double performance with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Japeth Aguilar had 21 and Mac Baracael 18 with three 3-point shots.

The Kings were led just twice the whole game and they had answers for every Batang Pier fightback, including a Baracael triple after Globalport came within, 88-82 with six minutes left.

“Hindi na nagpa-panic kahit nakaka-recover ang kalaban; focus na sila sa game plan,” said Agustin. “We were able to push the ball. Maganda ang transition namin at rebounding.”

A big weekend crowd turned out to watch Caguioa and Romeo reprise their parts as gunslingers a month ago when the Ginebra superstar and his Globalpart heir apparent emptied their weapons in a fiery fourth quarter duel.

When the smoke cleared, Caguioa had 29 points and Romeo 27, with the Kings standing, 109-104.

This time around, both players had their guns holstered for most part, largely due to Romeo firing duds and squids.

While Caguioa had 11 points and Romeo 13, the former Far Eastern stalwart was 3 of 16 from the floor overall, missing 9 of 10 shots inside the arc, an apparent indication of his burning desire to upstage his idol.

Caguioa, on the other hand, shot 2 of 9 from the field.

Rarely did their paths cross at the times they were both inside, and although Romeo did his best to do a John Travolta on the floor, it was evident early there would be no last dance for them.

Sol Mercado led Globalport with 20 points and former MVP and Barangay Ginebra player added 17 and 14 rebounds.

In the other match, San Mig Coffee made it 4-in-a-row as they turned back the Talk ‘n Text Tropang Texters, 100-87.

Meanwhile, a lot of prayers will be recited as No. 2 Rain or Shine and No. 3 Petron Blaze collide against teams on a mission today at the Big Dome.

The Elasto Painters need a win over the Air21 Express at 5:45 p.m. to secure the second twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs while the Boosters will be playing against the Meralco Bolts at 3:30 p.m.

The scores:
First game:
GINEBRA 108 – Slaughter 23, Aguilar 21, Baracael 18, Ellis 11, Caguioa 11, Tenorio 10, Reyes 8, Helterbrand 2, Monfort 2, Mamaril 2, Ababou 0, Urbiztondo 0.

GLOBALPORT 92 – Mercado 20, Menk 17, Ponferrada 16, Romeo 13, Garcia 9, Nabong 7, Hayes 6, Chua 2, Salva 2, Belencion 0, Najorda 0, Salvador 0.

Quarters: 28-20; 58-49; 80-73; 108-92.

Second game:
SAN MIG SUPER COFFEE 100 – Simon 19, Barroca 16, Devance 14, Reavis 12, Yap 10, Pingris 9, Sangalang 6, Mallari 5, Melton 5, De Ocampo 4.

TALK N’ TEXT 87 – Castro 21, De Ocampo 14, Fonacier 12, Alapag 12, Peek 11, Seigle 10, Anthony 3, Reyes Rob 2, Aban 2, Reyes J. 0.

Quarters: 26-21, 52-44, 75-68, 100-87