Ginebra forces ‘Sudden Death’ Game 7 with dominant 91-67 over Star

Barangay Ginebra flaunted its never-say-die spirit once again as it staved off elimination and dragged a winner-take-all Game Seven with a dominant 91-67 victory over the Star Hotshots in the 2017 PBA Philippine Cup Semifinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Sunday.

The Kings rode a blistering second half surge that saw both their offense and defense on full display as they outscored Star, 53-28, to survive another elimination in front of over 18,000 fans.

Just when it mattered, five Ginebra players finished with double figures led by Sol Mercado’s 21 and LA Tenorio’s 19 as the Kings rallied from an 11-point first quarter deficit before heating up in the second half to put their back-to-back finals appearance dream alive.
The sister teams will go all-out on Tuesday as they battle at the Mall of Asia Arena with a finals ticket at stake.

That is after another Game Seven happens tomorrow when defending champions San Miguel, who blew TNT out last night, 104-88, go up against the Katropa at 7 pm.

“Game Five was a disaster for us, we had nothing. But tonight they (Star Hotshots) looked a step slow,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone. “This is a tough grind, playing every other day, but we seemed to have the energy today.”

Injured forward Joe Devance celebrated his birthday in style as he served as the spark for Ginebra in this game, pouring all of his 14 points in the pivotal third quarter while holding his fort against the Hotshots’ big men on the defensive side.

Star still led 46-44 with 8:32 remaining in the third before Devance scored 10 straight points, built on two triples, to give Ginebra the lead, 52-48.

Mercado, along with Jervy Cruz, then ignited a spirited 19-9 run bridging the third and the fourth frame to help the Kings take a 14-point lead they never relinquished the rest of the way.

“Joe has been an inspiration to us. His resolve and his ability to keep on battling, it’s just an inspiration to all of us,” said Cone of Devance, who played despite a left-foot injury.

Cruz finished with 11 points in 14 minutes of action off the bench, while Japeth Aguilar had a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Mercado shot a very efficient 8 of 10 from the field and added five caroms and four dimes in his stat line as he took over late in the game afterTenorio’s hot start which saw the 5-foot-9 guard grabbed six boards and dished outfive assists.

Marc Pingris led Star with 14 points and 10 rebounds but aside from Mark Barroca’s 13 points, no other Hotshot scored in double digits.

Ginebra’s defense limited Star to just 10 assists throughout and forced them to 17 turnovers. The Hotshots shot just 4 of 16 from beyond the arc. –Julian Rikki Reyes

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