Japeth Aguilar (25) of the Ginebra Kings tries to drive around the defense of Star’s Ian Sangalang during Game 4 of their PBA Philippine Cup semis match-up at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Kings repeat over Hotshots
Nelson Beltran (The Philippine Star) - February 16, 2017 - 12:00am

 MANILA, Philippines - Barangay Ginebra drubbed the Star Hotshots, 93-86, for the second straight game behind the heroics of Jervy Cruz as it levelled their PBA Philippine Cup Final Four showdown at two games apiece at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.

Cruz, playing extended minutes with Joe Devance still recovering from an injury, came through with a personal season best of 21 points as the Kings repeated over the Hotshots following their 73-62 triumph in Game Three.

Coach Tim Cone utilized nine men who responded to the challenge to force a two-game standoff in the best-of-seven series.

They break the deadlock in Game Five over at the MOA Arena in Pasay City tomorrow.

“The guys played with a great resolve. We’re saying after they beat us twice that we can also beat them twice. They came back and did it,” said Cone.

“It’s another defensive battle like the last game. Defense dictated the game. They hung around and hung around but we had a lot of help other than Japeth (Aguilar) and LA (Tenorio). And that was a big key,” Cone added.

Cruz missed by just two points his previous career high of 23 made with Rain or Shine.

The former UAAP MVP winner from Santo Tomas went 5-of-12 from the field and 11-of-13 from the stripe and capped his sterling performance with a three-point play off a foul by Allein Maliksi to clinch their win in the closing seconds.

Aguilar came up with double-double numbers with 18 points and 10 rebounds with Sol Mercado, Scottie Thompson, Kevin Ferrer and Dave Marcelo also playing key roles.

Cone lauded Mercado for his defensive job on Paul Lee whom he held down to nine points on 4-of-14 clip.

“Some guys that we didn’t normally talk about really stepped up for us tonight. And it’s a good feeling from a coaching standpoint,” said Cone.

Cone was quick to add though their job was far from over.

“No rest for the weary,” he said. “All we did at this point was tied the series and made it a best-of-three.”

With a fine shooting, Ginebra established control in the second period and hardly wavered as the Star came back in the third period.

But the Hotshots couldn’t get into a real groove especially as Lee, Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon were hit by early fouls.  

Keeping the fire of their hot shooting in the closing minutes of Game Three, the Kings enjoyed a nine-point lead at 41-32 before taking the half at 48-41.

Ginebra hit at a 54-percent clip (19-of-35) in posting that seven-point halftime spread on a balanced offensive game.

For Star, Maliksi and Jalalon put in 13 and 12, respectively, but no other Hotshot made more than four markers in the first 24 minutes of play.

As Lee also hit his strides in the third period, the Hotshots scooted ahead at 58-57. But then Lee picked up a fifth foul barely 32 seconds into the fourth quarter causing him to sit down a crucial stretch of the contest.

Another blow for the Hotshots was the sixth and last foul drawn by Barroca three minutes later.

The 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.

Quarterscores: 21-23, 48-41, 65-62, 93-86

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