By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
DREW first blood in their best-of-five PBA Philippine Cup semifinal bid, the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings look to create further distance from the Meralco Bolts in Game Two on Friday at the Angeles University Foundation (AUF) Arena in Pampanga.
The top seeds Kings strolled to a 96-79 victory in the series-opener with a balanced effort, punctuated by six players finishing in double-digit scoring.
It was a close match in the opening quarter before Barangay Ginebra cranked its attack up in the middle quarters to create a comfortable cushion.
Meralco tried to make a last-ditch attempt for a comeback in the final frame, but Barangay Ginebra was not to allow it much headway on the way to securing the win.
Stanley Pringle bannered the Kings’ scoring parade with 19 points to go along with seven rebounds.
Scottie Thompson had a near triple-double of 13 points, nine rebounds and eight assists while rookie Arvin Tolentino also had 13 markers.
LA Tenorio and Aljon Mariano had 11 points each, with Prince Caperal adding 10 for Barangay Ginebra.
For Meralco, it was Allein Maliksi who top-scored with 24 points, followed by Chris Newsome with 13.
Postgame, Kings coach Tim Cone pointed out that the longer rest period afforded them entering the semifinals helped the team to come out with more spring in their game.
“We were able to rest and prepare and it helped us,” said Mr. Cone, whose team was the first through the semifinals after barging in on Friday as opposed to the Bolts who still had to play on Sunday to book their place in the semifinals.
“The players made full use of the time we had and came out with a solid team game,” he added.
The Kings go for the 2-0 series lead in the game set for 3:45 p.m.
Meanwhile, the TNT Tropang Giga also go for a 2-0 series advantage in their own joust with the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters.
TNT bucked a slow start before riding the late heroics of veteran Jayson Castro to get their semifinal push in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) All-Filipino tournament on a winning note, 95-92.
It was nip-and-tuck heading into the last two minutes of the contest, with the Tropang Giga ahead by just one point, 87-86.
Mr. Castro then took over the attack of TNT, scoring seven of his team’s last eight points to keep Phoenix at bay en route to the victory.
The seasoned TNT guard finished with a team-high 20 points, paired with six rebounds and six assists.
Ray Parks, Jr. ended up with 17 points while Roger Pogoy had 16.
For Phoenix, it was RJ Jazul who showed the way with 21 markers.
The Fuel Masters played much of the contest without leading scorer Matthew Wright, who hurt his right ankle in the first quarter and did not come back.
He, however, is expected to play in Game Two set for 6:30 p.m.