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Ginebra nears finals return

            The Barangay Ginebra Kings took their turn to bounce back strong from a woeful outing, clipping the Meralco Bolts, 91-84, to regain the lead in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals faceoff at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Gym in Angeles City Sunday.

            Badly beaten, 77-95, Friday, the Kings made a big turnaround right at the get-go, pulling away early and keeping the Bolts at bay all the way to the pivotal win that sent them to the threshold of the best-of-seven finals.

            With the 2-1 lead, the Kings take their first shot at series closeout in Game Four Wednesday.

            Held to a personal tournament low of nine points in Game Two, Stanley Pringle returned in his lethal form, top scoring with 24 points and adding nine rebounds and six assists in a splendid all-around game.

            “Our main focus was to execute,” said Pringle, adding they intend to do better in the next game.

            Many other Ginebra players came out with their guns locked and loaded while veteran Joe Devance played with his court smarts and leadership, much to coach Tim Cone’s approval.

            Cone said they really turned to Devance in this big game.

            “In big moment like this, we go to Joe. It’s Joe’s decision making. He’ll not make so many points and get many rebounds but he makes good decisions both on offense and defense,” Cone said.

            Devance, Pringle, Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson and rookie Arvin Tolentino composed the starting unit getting the team to a strong start with a lead as big as 25.

            LA Tenorio, with 12 points and four assists, and Prince Caperal, with 15 markers and six boards, meanwhile, led the reserve crew providing the sustaining power.

            Though falling in a deep hole early, the Bolts refused to give up and had their runs that got them within single-digit deficits.

            But the Kings just won’t be denied, with a key play by LA Tenorio from a steal off Chris Newsome sealing the deal at 86-76 with a little over a minute left.

            PHOENIX VS. TNT

            Matthew Wright’s sprained ankle continues to bother him, but he made TNT hurt more by leading Phoenix Super LPG past the Tropang Giga via a 92-89 decision Sunday for the Fuel Masters’ second straight win in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals duel.

            The Fil-Canadian gunner scored a game-high 25 points anchored on five triples, including a dagger of a turnaround shot that gave Phoenix a 92-89 lead in the last 23 seconds that stood when Roger Pogoy and Jayson Castro missed their respective tries at an equalizer.

            After following up their 110-103 victory in Game 2 last Friday the Fuel Masters can close out the best-of-five series with another win on Wednesday and by that time Wright’s sprain suffered early in a 92-95 Game 1 loss should be much better.

            “I’m playing through the pain, playing with limited mobility,” admitted Wright. “Four days after spraining my ankle it’s still really painful, it’s throbbing right now. I’m glad we have two days rest before the next game.”

            Winning coach Topex Robinson continues to defy the odds in this its first-ever semifinals stint.

            “Again, you’ll never know when you’ll get this chance again so no matter what the game is, it’s always about again just trying to enjoy it,” Robinson said. “We already overachieved coming to this series.”

            Total team effort again did the trick for Phoenix in a game it led by 71-61 before holding off TNT’s bids to turn the game around.

            Calvin Abueva was his usual do-it-all self with 24 points, 14 rebounds and six assists while Jason Perkins added 11 points which he capped with a follow-up that made it a 90-87 count.

            RJ Jazul’s 11 points, combined with Wright’s output, led to Phoenix taking a 47-32 advantage in bench points.

            Rayray Parks again led TNT with 19 points on top of 13 rebounds and six dimes while Simon Enciso added 16 markers. After averaging just 7.5 points in the first two games Troy Rosario finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.*PBA.COM

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