by Jonas Terrado
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel topped Magnolia, 85-79, in the opener of their best-of-three PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals to move a win from claiming a semifinal seat before a big Saturday crowd at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Justin Brownlee’s three with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter broke a 77-all tie before Stanley Pringle and Greg Slaughter made key baskets in the homestretch to secure the Kings’ victory over their “Manila Clasico” rival.
Pringle’s layup extended Ginebra’s lead to 82-79 before Greg Slaughter scored a three-point play off import Rakeem Christmas’ foul, barely two minutes remaining, to eventually settle the final count as Magnolia missed its final four shots.
“We won but it feels like a loss,” said coach Tim Cone, stressing how Magnolia dictated the tempo with its deliberate offense and defensive strategies that prevented his team from playing a more up-tempo game.
Still, Cone will still take the result since the Kings are on the doorstep of advancing to the semifinals and avenge their two playoff defeats against the Hotshots in the previous two conferences.
Brownlee had 20 points, 16 rebounds and five assists, Pringle scored 18 points, Japeth Aguilar 14 points and five rebounds and LA Tenorio with 11 points for Ginebra.
Slaughter finished with six points after making the biggest basket of the contest.
Paul Lee fired 24 points while Christmas made up for his rough debut against TNT KaTropa with 18 points and 14 rebounds in a losing effort.
A slam by Christmas over Aguilar tied the score the final time at 77-all before Brownlee sparked a late Kings breakaway.
GINEBRA 85 — Brownlee 20, Pringle 18, Aguilar 14, Tenorio 11, Devance 6, Thompson 6, Slaughter 6, Caguioa 4, Mariano 0.
MAGNOLIA 79 — Lee 24, Christmas 18, Barroca 11, Sangalang 10, Dela Rosa 5, Jalalon 5, Simon 4, Reavis 2, Gamalinda 0, Ramos 0, Melton 0, Pingris 0, Brondial 0.
Quarters: 26-23; 48-44; 66-60; 85-79.