By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings drew first blood in their best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup finals series with the TNT Tropang Giga, winning, 100-94, in overtime in the series opener on Sunday at the Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena in Pampanga.
Had themselves a fight all throughout the contest, the Kings hung tough in the end game to hack out the victory to move closer to a first Philippine Basketball Association All-Filipino title in more than a decade.
The opening half was tightly fought with TNT taking a five-point cushion, 27-22, at the end of the first quarter before Barangay Ginebra made its move to level the count at 41-all at the half.
The Kings continued with their charge to begin the third quarter, racing to a 60-51 advantage by the 6:55 mark.
On the lead of Ray Parks Jr. though, TNT went on an 8-0 run in the next three minutes, to narrow the gap at 60-59.
The Tropang Giga completed their recovery as they were on top, 71-66, with one quarter left to play.
In the fourth, Barangay Ginebra made another strong push early with Japeth Aguilar showing the way, reclaiming the lead, 72-71, inside the first two minutes.
The two teams went back-and-forth after, fighting to an 82-all count with four minutes remaining on the game clock.
The Kings created a four-point separation, 86-82, entering the last two minutes before a Jay Washington triple with 1:45 left made it a one-point game, 86-85.
Mr. Pringle answered with a deuce to extend their lead back to three points, 88-85, in the next 20 seconds only to be countered by Mr. Washington with another trey to level the score at 88-all with 1:07 remaining.
The Kings went up by two, 90-88, after a basket by Mr. Pringle, which TNT answered anew by way of a Jayson Castro triple to make it a 91-90 game in their favor at the 36-second mark.
Off a timeout, Barangay Ginebra went to Mr. Pringle to create a play but the latter turned the ball over.
They were then forced to foul Mr. Parks with 12 seconds to go.
But the TNT forward split his free throws to still open the door for Barangay Ginebra, 92-90.
The Kings sued for time after, which paid dividends as rookie Arvin Tolentino saw a lane for a drive off a pass from LA Tenorio to tie the knot at 92-all with five seconds remaining.
TNT still had a chance to win the game in regulation but Mr. Castro missed his shot in the paint as the game buzzer sounded, sending the game to overtime.
Barangay Ginebra jump-started things in the extra time with four straight points to take a 96-92 advantage with 3:27 to go.
Roger Pogoy broke the silence for TNT at the 1:20 mark to make it just a two-point deficit, 96-94.
Barangay Ginebra, however, got added breathing room, 98-94, 25 seconds later with an Aljon Mariano looper.
The Tropang Giga tried to respond after but Mr. Parks’ drive to the basket failed to produce.
The Kings made them pay for that with the former adding to their lead, 100-94, with 19 seconds remaining off a slam from Mr. Aguilar.
It was a hole the Tropang Giga could not recover from, leaving the Kings to notch the hard-earned win.
Mr. Aguilar top-scored for Barangay Ginebra with 25 points, partnering it with 16 rebounds. Mr. Pringle had 24 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
Scottie Thompson and Mr. Tolentino had 15 and 14 points, respectively, while Mr. Tenorio had a double-double of 12 points and 10 assists.
For TNT, Mr. Parks had 20 points before fouling out, with Mr. Pogoy adding 19.
Game Two of the finals is on Wednesday.