Monday night’s PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinal knockout game between Barangay Ginebra and Rain or Shine easily goes down in PBA history as another hardwood classic.
Counted out because of the absence of reigning MVP Mark Caguioa and center Billy Mamaril due to injuries, the Gin Kings weren’t given much of a chance against the battle-tested Elasto Painters.
In a quarterfinal game where the Gin Kings could have just easily rolled and die, they instead, played together and embodied the never-say-die spirit that had long been the trademark of Ginebra since the days of then playing-coach Robert Jaworski, Sr.
Import Vernon Macklin showed the way for the tough fighting Gin Kings with 24 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and a shot block. He could have wilted under pressure when he was sent to the free throw line with 14 ticks to go in the game.
I remembered Chua telling me in a recent interview that he’s well aware of the “Hack-a-Mack” strategy, something every PBA fan watching the game live or on television, saw when they played Meralco last March.
But Chua maintained he wouldn’t even consider removing Macklin in a crucial situation just because he’s not a good from the foul line. But he simply told Macklin to be relaxed and focus on making the free throws.
In short, Chua was telling Macklin: “I believe in you”.
Macklin, a 56.6 percent free throw shooter, surprisingly went two-for-two on the 15-foot line, which proved to be the marginal points.
The 6’10” Barangay Ginebra import then capped his heroics by swatting Rain or Shine guard Jeff Chan potential game-tying layup.
Rain or Shine had four more chances to send the game into overtime or win it outright with a three-pointer but they all proved unsuccessful, enabling Barangay Ginebra to become just the ninth PBA team in history to reach the Final Four after overcoming an opponent’s twice-to-beat advantage.
Chua and Barangay Ginebra’s next big hurdle will be Talk ‘N Text, the reigning Philippine Cup champion.
Looking at the Gin Kings’ resurrection from the grave, their series against the Tropang Texters will surely be another PBA classic.
Photo Source: www.spin.ph