MANILA, Philippines – Barangay Ginebra's victory in Game 3 of the PBA Governors' Cup finals not only gave them a 2-1 lead in the series – it also gave the Gin Kings a big boost of confidence.
The Gin Kings used a big third quarter to pull away from Meralco, then displayed their poise in the end game to hold off the Bolts for a 92-84 triumph last Sunday.
With the crucial win, they are now halfway to their goal of reclaiming the Governors' Cup title.
More than that, it also emboldened the Gin Kings, who had entered the best-of-seven series with some self-doubt as to how they would deal with a dangerous Meralco squad.
"Malaking bagay 'tong panalong 'to sa amin, I think not only because of the win, but how we played this game for the first three quarters," said Ginebra point guard LA Tenorio, whose triple with under two minutes left helped squash the Meralco rally.
"Malaking confidence boost sa amin 'yun. Nagkaroon kami ng belief sa sarili namin na we can beat this team, kasi again, going to the series, we were really doubting how we can beat this team because they're really good defensively," he admitted.
Ginebra defeated Meralco in the finals of the 2016 and 2017 PBA Governors' Cup, in the process building a rivalry with the other franchise. But they suffered a huge 101-77 defeat to the Bolts in the elimination round that dented the team's confidence.
They drew first blood in the series, winning Game 1, 91-87. Meralco equalized in Game 2, surviving a late Ginebra barrage for a 104-102 victory. The third game was tight in the first half, until Stanley Pringle sparked the Gin Kings' breakaway in the third quarter, and they weathered Meralco's last-ditch rally in the final frame.
"Unti-unti, nagkakaroon na kami ng kumpyansa sa sarili namin kung papaano namin talunin 'tong team na 'to," said Tenorio, who was the Finals MVP when Ginebra won the title in 2016 and 2017.
"I think our defense is also getting better, especially against (Allen) Durham," he added.
With a chance to close in on another PBA title, Tenorio said they cannot take their foot off the pedal on Wednesday's Game 4.
This, even as Meralco big man Raymond Almazan is doubtful to play after sustaining a knee injury in the first quarter of Game 3. Tenorio noted that the Bolts' reserves have been stepping up, with Nico Salva and Nard Pinto contributing on offense in Game 2, and Trevis Jackson and Bryan Faundo doing the same in Game 3.
"We cannot take anything for granted, especially 'yung mga players nila," Tenorio said. "I have to give credit to all their players for being ready all the time."
"We're containing Durham, but I think we have to contain everyone na," he said. "Kaya ganoon kalakas ang Meralco ngayon, kaya sila andito."
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.