Pilo Pumaren was comfortably watching the Ginebra-NorthPort game from his front row seat at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday.
Exactly 40 years ago, Pumaren was the one calling the shots for the Gin Kings when the franchise made its PBA debut against Royal Tru-Orange. Ginebra was an expansion team then carrying the Gilbey's Gin name.
Pumaren's presence courtside, however, could not conjure magic as the Kings dropped a thrilling 100-97 loss to NorthPort to end the elimination round of the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup.
Nonetheless, Ginebra still sealed the third seed with a 7-4 win-loss record and will face rival Magnolia in a best-of-three quarterfinal series.
Meanwhile, the victory meant the world to the Batang Pier, who will make an entry into the playoffs after getting the boot in each of the three conferences last season. NorthPort closed out its elimination round campaign with a 5-6 record for the seventh spot.
NLEX and Alaska will battle for the final playoff slot on Friday.
It was a wild final sequence that saw both teams trading baskets. Jervy Cruz, who was awarded extended minutes after doing a splendid job on both ends, scored on a left-handed layup to give Ginebra a 97-95 lead.
But NorthPort had its own hero in rookie Robert Bolick who retaliated with a booming three-pointer to regain the lead before Stanley Pringle canned a pair of free throws for the final score.
Ginebra had the chance to tie, but Sol Mercado's heave from way beyond the half-court line, with still three seconds remaining, didn't touch the rim. He was hoping for a whistle from the refs as NorthPort appeared to intentionally foul.
Bolick led NorthPort with 24 points, five assists, and three rebounds. Sean Anthony and Mo Tautuaa combined for 36 points and 11 rebounds.
Stanley Pringle was struggling offensively but made up for it in other departments as he flirted with a triple-double with nine points, seven rebounds, and eight assists to go with five steals. He had no turnovers in close to 37 minutes of play.
"We really wanted to make the playoffs. We did our best. We helped each other out there," Bolick said in Filipino.
Greg Slaughter paced Ginebra with 14 points and five rebounds while Mercado put up 10 points and 11 assists.
NorthPort 100 - Bolick 24, ANthony 19, Tautuaa 17, Guinto 14, Pringle 9, Grey 9, Taha 6, Flores 2, Elorde 0, Lanete 0, Sollano 0.
Ginebra 97 - Slaughter 14, Cruz 13, Mercado 10, Thompson 9, Aguilar 8,Dela Cruz 8, Ferrer 7, Devance 7, Mariano 4, Caperal 4, Teodoro 4, Chan 3, Aguilar 3, Tenorio 3, Caguioa 0.
Quarterscores: 22-21, 47-45, 77-72, 100-97
- LA Tenorio played in his 600th straight game. He finished with three points, four rebounds, and four assists.
- Pilo Pumaren was the one who discovered Robert Jaworski, who went on to become the franchise's most iconic player as he personified the "Never Say Die" mantra of the Gin Kings.