Meralco prevents getting swept after Hugnatan provided the needed voltage from outside
Reynel Hugnatan shot 58% from beyond the arc in Game 3. (Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
With the title almost upon their reach, the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings need two things: make sure that they win Game and secondly, not just win Game 3 but, dominate it to the point that it will make the Meralco Bolts desperate.
For the Bolts on the other side, winning Game 3 is the first step towards keeping their championship aspirations alive. The next step? Well, keep on winning the next 3 games and the championship is their- that if they are able to stop shooting bricks and start hitting their target: the basket.
Just when the defending champions thought they could finally celebrate on Friday, they were terribly wrong as Allen Durham AND Reynel Hugnatan sparked the Bolts after Meralco scored a 94-81 Game 3 win that put the Bolts back into the series, only trailing 2-1 heading into Friday's Game 4.
Meralco Faltered and Recovered.
Both teams started out flat during the first three minutes of Game 3 but once Scottie Thompson hit his first field goal, the Gin Kings held the Bolts to only 3 points in the first 4 minutes of the first quarter as Meralco fell 8-3 which was the reason why Norman Black called a timeout. Desperate to get anything going, the Bolts went to attack the paint only to be blocked by Ginebra defenders. Meralco was able to score a few possessions later but they couldn't attack the shaded nor shoot from the outside as Japeth Aguilar's inside basket gave Gin Kings, a 14-5 edge with under 5 minutes to go.
Back to back treys from Reynel Hunatan and Anjo Caram brought the Bolts within 3, at 14-11. The Gin Kings answered right back with a three of their own but Hugnatan took it back with another trey of his own. Caram added another long-distance bomb to make it 19-18 with under 2 to play in the first quarter. He made a free throw to tie the score at 19-all. Both teams tied at 21 apiece after the first minutes of action as the duo of Hugnatan and Caram along with Allen Durham kept the Bolts within striking distance.
Meralco went back into it: Shooting Bricks
Greg Slaughter has already outscored himself in Game 2 when he scored 4 points during the opening moments of the second quarter as Justin Brownlee drained one from deep to make it 27-23. But Meralco roared back into it as Garvo Lanete's lay-up gave the Bolts the lead, at 28-27 which was followed by Tim Cone calling a timeout. However, right after the champs regained the lead, the Bolts went back to their bad habits: shooting bricks especially from beyond the three-point land, an area where the Bolts made 4 of 8 attempts back in the first quarter. That Meralco slump enabled Ginebra to re-established a 7-point advantage with 5:50 left before intermission.
Despite that, the Bolts were able to get themselves back within striking distance after they went on a scoring which was highlighted by a Hugnatan trey which made it 44-42 approaching the closing minutes of the first half as Ginebra carried a 47-46 lead into the break.
Numbers at the Half
After scoring just 3 points in the previous game, Greg Slaughter already had 9 points after the first two quarters to lead the defending champions. His other half of Ginebra's Twin Towers, Japeth Aguilar also had 9 at halftime while import Justin Brownlee added 8 points. Thanks to their height advantage, the Gin Kings were able to take advantage of their offensive boards which in turn, they converted to 9-second-chance points. They also held a 7-5 advantage in points scored off turnovers.
Allen Durham meanwhile scored 15 first-half points to lead all scorers to go along with his 10 rebounds but it was the 12 points of Reynel Hugnatan which allowed the Bolts stick around. Both teams had a very contrasting performance in the 3-point line as the Bolts scored 6 of 18 from outside which was a far cry to Ginebra's 2 of 12 from that area.
Third Quarter: A Roller Coaster Ride
The first 3 minutes of the second half was an up and down battle both teams as the lead switched hands twice before LA Tenorio made 52-48 with a 3-point shot although he was called for a traveling violation on the next Ginebra possession. Inconsistency went back to hurt Meralco as they fell behind by 6 points during the next minutes until LA Tenorio's fastbreak lay-up made it 60-52 approaching the 5-minute mark of the third quarter.
Coming off a timeout, Meralco unleashed an 8-0 run to tie the score at 60-all. After Ginebra gained the lead back momentarily, Reynel Hugnatan added another one from long distance and Allen Durham added a pair of charities to put the Bolts up, 66-64 with barely a minute before the end of the 3rd period.
Meralco's Stuck Around
Joe Devance and Justin Brownlee each nailed a three-pointer to open the 4th quarter as Norman Black immediately called a timeout to avoid any more damage as the crowd darlings had regained the lead once more. Garvo Lanete broke Meralco's scoring drought with a trey but Greg Slaughter continued to pour in the points. Lanete later added another inside basket to bring his team with 1, at 74-73 with 8 minutes remaining in the game as the Bolts began to turn the ball over anew. Meralco later regained the lead on Allen Durham's dunk but Japeth Aguilar gave it back to Ginebra upon completing a 3-point play.
A technical foul was called on Japeth Aguilar and Meralco made the technical free throw to be followed by an Allen Durham basket and another, yes, another long-distance bomb from Reynel Hugnatan to put the Bolts up, 83-77 with under 4 minutes to play as Ginebra called another timeout.
Durham then blocked Justin Brownlee and scored on a 3-point play to give the Bolts, a 9-point cushion. LA Tenorio scored on a three-pointer but Hugnatan handed out a nice dish to Durham who made the basket to keep it an 8-point for the Bolts heading into the final 2 minutes of the game. And, Ginebra left Jared Dillinger beyond the arc and they paid the price as Dillinger finally nailed one from outside put the Bolts up by 11.
The Numbers that Won and Lost the Games
Justin Brownlee played his yet best game of the series as he finished with 38 points, 20 rebounds and 5 blocks. But it was Reyenel Hugnatan's 22 points, 21 on threes, proved to be the dagger that was buried in the hearts of the Ginerba faithfuls as he provided the needed spark that wasn't coming from the rest of the Bolts. Key to victory for Meralco? Simple. 3-point shooting. They made 11 of 31 from deep.
Justin Brownlee was limited to 15 points on 7 of 20 field goal shooting while LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar each had 14 points. Even though Ginebra was shooting better throughout the game, their 19 turnovers cost them a chance to get a commanding 3-0 series lead.
Durham 38, Hugnatan 22, Dillingr 9, Lanete 8, Caram 7, Newsome 7, Hodge 3, Amer 0, De Ocampo 0, Atkins 0, Yeo 0, Sedurifa 0, Faundo 0, Tolomia 0
Brownlee 15, Tenorio 14, J. Aguilar 14, Slaughter 12, Thompson 10, Devance 8, Caguioa 8, Mercado 0, Helterbrand 0, Ferrer 0, Jamito 0, Cruz 0, Mariano 0, R. Aguilar 0, Taha 0
21-21, 46-47, 66-64, 94-81