Not just yet.
Barangay Ginebra, hoping to advance to the Finals of the 2020 Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup, were instead ambushed by the Meralco Bolts.
The Bolts got a surprise lift from veteran big man Reynel Hugnatan who scored the crucial points to power Meralco to an 83-80 victory yesterday, Wednesday, November 25 at the Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena & Cultural Center Powered by Smart 5G.
The Bolts thus equalized their best-of-five Semifinal playoff at 2-all and forced a deciding fifth game on Friday.
Hugnatan scored 12 points in the payoff fourth quarter to finish with a game-high19 markers, 4 rebounds and 4 assists to win Player of the Game honors.
He said the team just focused on working hard which eventually paid off with the victory.
“Sabi ni coach kailangan mag-effort sa rebound. Kasi lahat ng talo namin dahil sa rebounds. Kaya ngayon lahat kami nagtulong tulong sa rebound at sa laro kaya kami nanalo,” said Hugnatan in the post-game interview.
With Meralco trailing by a point, 79-80, Chris Newsome dribbled into the paint, drew two defenders then passed off to Hugnatan who drilled a long two which pushed Meralco ahead by one, 81-80, with 15 seconds left to play.
Ginebra had a chance to win but a layup attempt by Stanley Pringle was blocked by Raymond Almazan and the count was finalized by a fastbreak layup by Newsome, 83-80.
Hugnatan said the final play was designed for Newsome who opted to pass the ball to him instead.
“‘Yung play na ‘yon kay News (Chris Newsome) yon. But noong pinasa niya sa akin, hindi na ako nag-isip. Kailangan ipasok ko na ‘yon,” said Hugnatan.
Pringle, limited by the Meralco defense, finished with 18 points.
Ginebra trailed big early but came alive in the pivotal third quarter.
The Gin Kings received a surprise lift from Jared Dillinger who drilled a pair of three-pointers and two free throws to fuel a 27-8 Ginebra run which pushed the Gin Kings ahead by 6 points, 58-52, with 2:48 to go in the third quarter.
Ginebra eventually held on to a 4-point, 64-60, lead after the third period.
Cliff Hodge converted back-to-back layups—the first on fastbreak attack from a Ginebra turnover and the second from a pick-and-roll at the elbow—to cut the Ginebra advantage to just a point, 66-65, with 9:33 to go in the game.
The Bolts regained the advantage, 68-66, from a triple by Nard Pinto time down to 8 minutes.
Hugnatan got a pass from Newsome and drilled the open triple to push Meralco ahead by three points, 77-74, with 3:56 to go in the game.
Ginebra’s Prince Caperal and Pringle each missed a three-point attempt but Japeth Aguilar was around for the follow-up jam as Ginebra cut the Meralco lead to a point, 77-76.
Newsome backed up on his defender then connected on a turnaround jumper to extend that advantage back to three, 79-76, with 2:21 to play.
Aguilar scored on a layup and then on a mid-range jumper to grab the lead back for Ginebra, 80-79, time down to 1:17.
Neither side could score in their possessions but LA Tenorio slid on the floor across the sideline turning the ball over to Meralco.
Ginebra second string center Caperal was left open twice and made Meralco pay dearly drilling a pair of three-pointers to push Ginebra to a three-point, 18-15, lead with 4:05 to go in the first quarter.
The Bolts then stepped on the gas. Baser Amer drilled a three-pointer at the 24-second buzzer while Hodge, Aaron Black and Bong Quinto converted layups to push Meralco back on top, 24-18, with 1:06 to go in the period.
The Bolts eventually held a 26-21 advantage after the first quarter.
Meralco continued to control the pace of the game in the second period setting up a box-and-one zone.
A Meralco player shadowed Pringle while the other four stayed in formation near the paint. The ploy worked as Meralco ended the half ahead by 13 points, 44-31.
Meralco Bolts 83 – Reynel Hugnatan 19, Chris Newsome 16, Cliff Hodge 16, Raymond Almazan 11, Allein Maliksi 8, Baser Amer 4, Nard Pinto 3, Aaron Black 2, Bong Quinto 2, Trevis Jackson 0, Anjo Caram 0.
Barangay Ginebra 80 – Stanley Pringle 18, Jared Dillinger 15, Scottie Thompson 13, Japeth Aguilar 12, LA Tenorio 8, Prince Caperal 8, Aljon Mariano 6, Joe Devance 0, Arvin Tolentino 0.
Quarter Scores: 26-21, 44-31, 60-64, 83-80.
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