Cruz growls back to life as Ginebra evens Manila Clasico semis at 2-2

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Feb 15, 2017 09:56 PM
Cruz growls back to life as Ginebra evens Manila Clasico
BACK TO SQUARE ONE. Archrivals Ginebra and Star will now figure in a best-of-three with a Finals berth on the line.

With Jervy Cruz in the first five, Barangay Ginebra is 2-0 in the semifinals of the 2016-2017 PBA Philippine Cup.

The veteran center spearheaded a strong start before the rest of the Gin Kings held down the fort in the final frame for an eventual 93-86 triumph over Star on Thursday at the Araneta Coliseum.

Tim Cone and his wards were down two games in the best-of-seven semifinals until a shakeup of the starting lineup breathed new life on their campaign. Now, they stand on even ground with their archrivals in the hotly-contested Manila Clasico series.

The Hotshots were still threatening, only down by three points after three quarters before a scorching 11-5 blast pushed Ginebra ahead, 76-67, inside the last nine minutes.

Punctuating what turned out to be the pivotal push was Sol Mercado’s alley-oop to Japeth Aguilar.

The contest was a continuation of the Gin Kings rousing rally from Game 3. Cruz, reinvigorated by his starting role, scored seven of his 21 points in the first half as they took control early on.

Still, Star wasn’t giving up that easy and kept on coming even as foul trouble shut down Paul Lee and shut out Mark Barroca in the final frame.

Allein Maliksi and Rafi Reavis kept the Hotshots in the game, only trailing 86-90 with 40 ticks to go. However, Cruz had the quick counter for Ginebra and his and-one put the finishing touches on their second straight win.

Nothing but appreciative of the pleasant surprise of a contribution by Cruz, coach Tim Cone said after the game, “It wasn’t about LA (Tenorio) and Japeth, it’s all about the other guys today. The void is being filled by the other guys and that’s huge for us.”

Frontcourt partner Aguilar chimed in an 18-point, 10-rebound double-double for the Gin Kings.

Maliksi had 18 points to lead the losing effort for the Hotshots who have failed to find the same shooting stroke that carried them to victories in the first two games of the series.

BOX SCORES

GINEBRA 93 - Cruz 21, Aguilar 18, Ellis 10, Ferrer 9, Mercado 9, Tenorio 8, Marcelo 5, Caguioa 5, Thompson 4, Devance 4.

STAR 86 - Maliksi 18, Jalalon 16, Reavis 13, Lee 9, Pingris 9, Melton 7, Barroca 4, Ramos 4, Sangalang 4, Dela Rosa 2, Simon 0.

QUARTER SCORES: 21-23, 48-41, 65-62, 93-86.

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