By Jonas Terrado
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel denied Ray Parks Jr. a victory in his TNT KaTropa debut after prevailing 96-93 in a pulsating PBA Governors’ Cup duel Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Stanley Pringle broke a 92-all tie with a layup before Ginebra got a big break when KaTropa import KJ McDaniels missed a second free throw that would have tied the game to come away with an all-important win that kept them inside the top four hunt.
Pringle’s go-ahead basket, which came after blowing past McDaniels with 18 seconds left, was the only one the speedy guard made on his way to 14 points as Ginebra formally clinched a quarterfinals berth while tying San Miguel Beer for fourth at 6-3.
Ginebra holds the tiebreaker due to its 129-124 win over SMB last Oct. 13.
Japeth Aguilar was also instrumental for the Kings with 29 points and 10 rebounds, filling the void left by Greg Slaughter after hurting his thumb during Thursday’s practice.
Justin Brownlee added 24 points, 16 rebounds and six assists for Ginebra, which bounced back from a 101-77 defeat at the hands of Meralco last Sunday.
“That was a huge win for us. Really a must, must-win. I’m happy to get it,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone. “Really happy to get it, even though we didn’t play well in the last two minutes, we didn’t execute the way we wanted to. We were able to still pull it out.”
The result denied TNT of clinching the first twice-to-beat bonus given to the four best teams after the elims.
Parks had 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting in his first game since being acquired from Blackwater in exchange for Don Trollano, Tony Semerad and a 2021 first round draft pick.
He led the KaTropa back from an 82-68 deficit in the fourth by scoring eight points in the period while feeding Roger Pogoy for a corner trey that knotted the count at 92-all, 31 seconds remaining.
Pringle responded with the layup before McDaniels was fouled by Art dela Cruz, 10 ticks to go. McDaniels made the first try but missed the second, much to the delight of the Ginebra faithful.
LA Tenorio saved the ball to Brownlee, who made both free throws after being fouled for 96-93. Parks tried to send the game into overtime but his long three from the right elbow hit wide left before time expired.
TNT fell to a share of second with Meralco at 7-2, half-game behind solo leader NLEX and one clear of Ginebra and San Miguel.
The KaTropa played their first game since skipper Jayson Castro suffered an ankle injury that will sideline him for at least a month.
GINEBRA 96 — Aguilar 29, Brownlee 24, Tenorio 19, Pringle 14, Dela Cruz 8, Chan 2, Thompson 0, Sargent 0, Caperal 0, Mariano 0.
TNT KATROPA 93 — McDaniels 32, Pogoy 23, Parks 17, Vosotros 2, Digregorio 2, Williams 2, De Leon 2, Semerad 0, Reyes 0.
Quarters: 17-23; 38-44; 74-68; 96-93.