By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The Barangay Ginebra San Miguel secured a twice-to-beat playoff advantage after surviving the NLEX Road Warriors in a thrilling matchup in Legazpi City, 103-99, in the ongoing PBA Commissioner’s Cup last January 13, 2024.
Seeking to bag the much-needed win to gain some edge when the playoffs kick off, Ginebra had to dig deep against the banged-up NLEX squad that was firing from all cylinders on the road.
NLEX snatched the game’s momentum when they retook the lead in the third quarter. After trailing for the most of the first half, the Road Warriors were able to catch fire and dominated the start of the second half.
However, in the last two minutes of the third, the Gin Kings were able to mount a mini-offensive spurt that got them to within four points before the final canto was about to begin.
Ginebra continued its onslaught in the fourth after their key reserves led by point guard John Pinto made it hard for NLEX to score in every possession.
Just when the Gin Kings thought they could snowball their way to a dominant victory after the Road Warriors got cold offensively, Robert Bolick and Anthony Semerad answered the call for NLEX and helped them turn the game into a nip-and-tuck affair.
Through their tremendous team effort and improved defensive communication, the Road Warriors were able to clinch an 86-81 lead with 8:44 remaining in the fourth.
Countering for Ginebra was star point guard Stanley Pringle and veteran big man Japeth Aguilar who spearheaded a 7-0 run that caused another lead switch in favor of the Gin Kings.
The intense mano-a-mano would continue until the final three minutes of the game but it was Ginebra who performed better in the clutch.
With only 2:50 remaining and the Gin Kings trailing by a point, 93-94, Maverick Ahanmisi drained a crucial three-pointer that put Ginebra ahead, 96-94.
After earning another defensive stop on the other end, Christian Standhardinger made a basket underneath to balloon Ginebra’s cushion to four points, 98-94.
Semerad was able to answer with a three-pointer from the left corner that trimmed their deficit to just a point, 98-97, but Ginebra sealed the deal after import Tony Bishop drilled the biggest trey of the game added by two much-needed free throws from Pringle.
Standhardinger led the charge for the Gin Kings after stuffing the stat sheets with 18 points, eight rebounds, and six assists.
Meanwhile, Jamie Malonzo had 16 points for Ginebra while the backcourt duo of Pringle and Ahanmisi combined for 26 markers.