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PBA: Defense saves Kings

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Go-ahead basket by Mercado; Ginebra ties series, 1-all.

Norman Black, the Meralco Bolts coach, doesn’t believe Game 2 got away from them.

Sol Mercado, instead, took it away in the closing seconds.

“We were trailing almost throughout the game, but it was Sol with that offensive rebound that was the key,” said Black moments after Barangay Ginebra San Miguel edged the Bolts, 82-79, last night to square at 1-1 the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Game 3 is on Wednesday also at the Big Dome.

Mercado snatched a missed desperation shot by LA Tenorio and banked in the tiebrearker, 81-79, with 28 seconds remaining.

Meralco missed a succession of attempts in the next play and Tenorio added a free throw with 13.4 seconds to go.

Ginebra then stonewalled the Bolts’ game-tying heaves to preserve the tough win.

“Defense is one thing that’s contant,” said Kings coach Tim Cone. “We hang our hat on our defense.”

Meanwhile, TNT KaTropa guard Jayson Castro won the Best Player of the Conference (BPC) as he edged San Miguel Beer’s June Mar Fajardo, Globalport’s Terrence Romeo and Stanley Pringle, and Alaska’s Calvin Abueva.

The 5-foot-11 Castro accumulated 1,092 points from the combined Statistical Points (397) as well as votes from media (463), players (82) and the PBA Commissioner’s Office (150). Castro also won the BPC in the Commissioner’s Cup in 2014 and 2015, and 2013 Philippine Cup.

“Sobrang happy, pero kapag pumapasok (sa isip ko) yung semifinal series namin versus Meralco, medyo frustrated,” said Castro, referring to TNT’s Final Four series defeat to Meralco.

Castro tied Fajardo, who came in second in the derby with 857 points, with four BPCs each, one behind the record five by former SMB star Danny Ildefonso. Romeo finished third with 558 points, followed by Abueva (397) and Pringle (396).

With his BPC win, Castro joined fellow season BPC winners Fajardo (Philippine Cup) and Abueva (Commissioner’s Cup).

The three are automatic candidates in the MVP race, with the winner known on Friday.

Meralco’s Allen Durham, on the other hand, won the Bobby Parks Best import award, becoming the second straight Bolts reinforcement to win the plum after Arinze Onuaku captured it in the previous Commissioner’s Cup. Allen had 1,273 points as he edged Justin Brownlee of Ginebra with 1,028 points.

Brownlee rebounded from a dismal Game 1 performance by scoring 32 points, 8 coming in the fourth quarter when the game went back-and-forth.

Durham led the Bolts with 22 points but was clearly not the explosive presence he was in the opener where he got off 46 points.

Mercado kept pace with him before Brownlee and 6-foot-10 Japeth Aguilar closed in time and again.

“We have to do a better job moving the ball,” said Black, noting that new 3-point record owner Jimmy Alapag took just two field goal attempts in 21 minutes.
Alapag surpassed Allan Caidic’s 17-year-old mark of 1,242 triples.

Scores:
GINEBRA 82 – Brownlee 32, Mercado 12, Caguioa 10, Tenorio 9, Thompson 9, Aguilar 6, Devance 2, Helterbrand 2, Cruz 0, Marcelo 0.

MERALCO 79 – Durham 22, Hodge 16, Newsome 10, Hugnatan 9, Nabong 6, Amer 4, Caram 4, Alapag 3, Uyloan 3, Faundo 2.
Quarters: 24-21; 43-44; 69-60; 82-79

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