By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings are back as PBA Philippine Cup champions after closing out the TNT Tropang Giga in their best-of-seven final series with an 82-78 victory in Game Five on Wednesday at the Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena in Pampanga.
Last won the Philippine Basketball Association All-Filipino crown 13 years ago, the Kings did not waste any opportunity to go for the jugular and shut the door on any TNT series comeback to win it all, 4-1.
The title was the 13th league crown for Barangay Ginebra and first Philippine Cup conquest since the 2006-07 season.
The contest had it competitive in the opening half, with the teams engaging in an affair of runs and counter-runs.
It was a levelled game at 19-all at the end of the first quarter before the Kings secured a narrow two-point cushion, 38-36, at the halftime break.
In the third canto, the teams continued to jockey for leverage and swing momentum in their favor.
Roger Pogoy, after a slow start, towed TNT to an early 48-41 leverage in the first five minutes.
The Kings though got some real estate back, care of Scottie Thompson and Japeth Aguilar, coming to within two points, 48-46, by the 5:35 mark.
TNT tried to hold off the Barangay Ginebra fight-back the rest of the period and successfully did so as it held a 56-55 advantage entering the final frame.
Rebuffed in the previous quarter, the Kings opened the fourth with more aggression, outscoring the Tropang Giga, 9-2, to take a 64-58 lead with 10 minutes left to play.
Barangay Ginebra continued to hold sway, 68-67, at the halfway point.
Back-to-back triples by Simon Enciso in the next minute gave the lead to TNT, 73-68
The Kings, however, got their footing and strung up five straight points to tie the knot at 73-all with 4:10 remaining.
Stanley Pringle, who was quiet in the first three quarters, drained a triple, with 3:18 left to make it a 76-73 game in favor of Barangay Ginebra.
TNT had its chance to come closer after but failed to connect and the Kings made it pay for it with Mr. Aguilar scoring a deuce to extend their lead to five points, 78-73, with 1:56 to go.
The Tropang Giga, off a timeout, turned the ball over but Barangay Ginebra was not able to take advantage of it.
But the Kings showed no letup and kept attacking,
Joe Devance made it a seven-point lead for Barangay Ginebra, 80-73, with 53 ticks remaining.
It was a distance TNT could not make up for until the final buzzer and the Kings went on to claim the crown.
Mr. Aguilar had a career-high-tying 32 points to go along with nine rebounds and three steals.
Mr. Pringle finished with 13 points and six dimes while LA Tenorio had 10 points and six assists.
Mr. Tenorio, meanwhile, was adjudged finals most valuable player after averaging 13.6 points, 6.2 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals in winning his first All-Filipino title.
For TNT, which played sans key cogs Jayson Castro and Ray Parks Jr. because of injuries, Mr. Pogoy showed the way with 23 points and eight rebounds.
JP Erram had a double-double of 18 points and 15 rebounds while Mr. Enciso had 17 markers and five assists.
“The players just found ways to win and I’m proud of them,” said Kings coach Tim Cone after surviving another gallant stand from TNT.
The win gave Mr. Cone his 23rd PBA title and fifth with Barangay Ginebra.
Wednesday’s closeout dropped the curtains on what turned out to be a successful tournament “bubble” for the PBA where all participants stayed in the Clark City area for the duration of the competition to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.
The league restarted its pandemic-hit Season 45 in October in the hopes of squeezing at least one conference and help in jump-starting the return of sports in the country.