by Tito S. Talao
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
8 p.m. – San Mig vs Ginebra
Manila, Philippines – With words of wisdom at halftime from the man who created the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel phenomenon providing inspiration, the Kings came back from the grave last night to keep their championship hopes alive.
Free throws from Mark Caguioa and Greg Slaughter in the last 16 seconds keyed the heart-stopping 94-91 victory over San Mig Super Coffee as the Kings forced a do-or-die Game 7 in the PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup semifinals at the Smart Coliseum.
The Kings and the Mixers dispute the second Finals berth tomorrow, with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters awaiting the winners. Game 1 of the best-of-7 championship series is on Friday.
James Yap, whose 3-point shot clinched Game 5 for the Mixers two nights ago, let fly from way out but the distance and the outstretched arms of JayR Reyes combined to deny the two-time MVP another game-winner.
Caguioa led the Kings with 21 points and Slaughter added 20 with 11 rebounds. It was, however, LA Tenorio, whose 8 points in the third quarter where Ginebra came back from a 14-point first half deficit lit the flames of a comeback, who shone the brightest.
After being the subject of scorn from Ginebra fans in the aftermath of Game 5, Tenorio redeemed himself with 16 points with three 3-pointers.
“Di ko na inisip na babawi ako,” Tenorio said later. “Ang inisip ko lang e makatulong sa team.”
The presence in the locker room at halftime of former Sen. Robert Jaworski, who coached and played for the crowd favorites at the height of the Ginebra magic in the ’80’s, appeared to have resurrected the Kings who outscored San Mig, 32-24, in the third quarter.
Shooting 12 of 22 from the field in the second quarter against the zone defense, San Mig took the half, 50-41, the 9-point lead initially at 14 points, 48-34, before the Kings made a desperate lunge to cut it down.
Ginebra was 5 of 14 in the second period.
A 9-0 run, with Mark Barroca accounting for 5 points and rookie Ian Sangalang 4, gave the Mixers a 37-26 advantage which they hiked to several 14-point spreads as a result of the Kings getting beaten repeatedly in transition, backdoor plays and dribble-drive penetrations that set up drop passes.
Their 3 of 9 three-point shooting, Mark Caguioa posting up, LA Tenorio going 3 for 6 and Greg Slaughter’s 10 points basically constituted the Kings’ offense in the first half which time and again was disrupted by the Mixers effectively bottling up passing lanes and choking their 2-man game.