After a classic comeback win engineered by Barangay Ginebra on Wednesday evening, coach Tim Cone said that he could not be prouder of his squad.
With their backs against the wall with a 3-5 record, the defending Philippine Cup champions need every win to have a chance to make the 2021 Philippine Cup playoffs.
Following a terrible start to the first quarter, where they were down 33-14 against a hot-shooting Phoenix Fuel Masters squad, the Gin Kings engineered a typical Ginebra comeback.
"It was a real opportunity for our players to say, 'No mas! Let's move on, let's go home to Manila. We're not going to do this well in the bubble.' But they didn't. They kept fighting," recalled the winningest tactician in league history.
"I want to say the never-say-die attitude came out. I don't like to own that because that's not mine. That's Sonny Jaworski's. But still it's Ginebra never-say-die and I thought we really showed that tonight and I'm proud of our guys," he added.
Ginebra hacked out a 94-87 win against streaking Phoenix Super LPG at the DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga, ending a two-game skid.
"It was a great comeback game. It was a game that our fans would have really loved. I was thinking when we were coming back to the game, 'Wow, imagine what the fans are doing right now. They'd be roaring.' This is a typical Ginebra game. We battled. We came back and found a way to win," recalled Cone.
L.A. Tenorio hit the biggest shot of the game, a booming triple from the right wing to give his side a 92-87 lead with a minute to go. He finished with 23 points and five assists. Stanley Pringle then stuck the proverbial dagger from the right baseline to hike their advantage to seven, 94-87, 31.8 left.
Pringle scored a game-high 31 markers and hauled seven rebounds, while Christian Standhardinger chipped in 21 points and collected 12 caroms.
Led by Jason Perkins' nine points, Phoenix zoomed to a 19-6 start halfway through the first quarter. The lead ballooned to 19 just before the end-of-quarter buzzer sounded.
Ginebra found its mark from the outside and sliced the lead to four, 39-35, after a corner three by Pringle. The Fuel Masters clapped back with a 7-0 run to widen the gap back to 11, 46-35. Scottie Thompson's 35-footer went off glass to beat the halftime buzzer as Phoenix led, 52-46.
Down 80-69 early in the fourth quarter, Ginebra went ahead through a 14-1 run capped off by a putback by Standhardinger at the 5:48 mark, 83-81.
Perkins dropped a 30-piece for the Fuel Masters, who saw their two-game winning streak end. Skipper Matthew Wright contributed 18 markers, hauled in five rebounds, and dished out five assists as Phoenix dropped to 4-6.
"It was a big game. We needed that obviously, not just moving up to the standings, but to create something positive. Have a positive feeling around the team. This is a tough situation," described Cone of the win.
GINEBRA (94) -- Pringle 31, Tenorio 23, Standhardinger 21, Thompson 12, Mariano 3, Tolentino 2, Dillinger 2, Devance 0, Caperal 0.
PHOENIX (87) -- Perkins 30, Wright 18, Jazul 15, Chua 12, Calisaan 3, Melecio 3, Banchero 2, Pascual 2, Demusis 2, Muyang 0, Garcia 0, Manuel 0, Tamsi 0.
Quarter Scores: 16-33, 46-52, 69-76, 94-87.
- Japeth Aguilar did not play due to a sprained MCL. It is believed not to be serious, according to Cone.
- Arvin Tolentino was a -18 in 12 minutes of action.
- Vic Manuel saw limited minutes once again, only seeing action for nine minutes in total.
Ginebra vs Alaska on Friday, Sept. 17, 6 p.m., at DHVSU Gym
Phoenix vs San Miguel on Friday, Sept. 17, 3 p.m., at DHVSU Gym