GlobalPort proved to Barangay Ginebra how a dominating import can make a big difference.Justin Williams imposed his will throughout and went two blocks shy of a triple-double to help the Batang Pier bounce back with a methodical 89-80 victory over the Gin Kings in the PBA Commissioners Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Asserting his dominance against Ginebra counterpart Herbert Hill, the 6-foot-10 Williams came through with eye-popping numbers of 23 points, as many rebounds and eight swats–all game-highs–as GlobalPort mightily recovered from a painful 88-98 overtime setback inflicted by Barako Bull last Sunday.
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Scoring dynamo Gary David collected 22 points, eight coming during the team’s third-quarter breakaway, while beefy guard Sol Mercado sustained his playmaking wonders with 13 assists on top of 12 markers for GlobalPort, which moved to solo third with a 2-1 record.
Hill, who missed his first ten shots in the Ginebra’s 70-74 defeat to Air21 five days ago, came up with team-bests of 22 markers and 19 rebounds, but those may have come a little late.
Reports continued to gain steam that Vernon Macklin, a former Detroit Piston, is expected to land in Manila as early as Monday next week and will take the spot of the inefficient Hill.
Reigning league MVP Mark Caguioa tallied 10 of his 20 markers in the second canto but no other local reached double-figures, causing the Ginebra to slip to its second loss and join defending champion San Mig Coffee at the cellar.
“Sol continued to feed me the ball,” said Williams in the post-game TV interview. “We just have to come back after a tough loss. I’m just playing hard and doing the dirty work.”
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Though limited to just eight markers and nine rebounds, high-leaping forward Japeth Aguilar did a commendable job shadowing Hill in the paint, including a staggering block in the fourth, while rookie AJ Mandani hit timely baskets for a six-point, three-assist outing.
Behind the all-around exploits of Williams coupled with an airtight defense, the Batang Pier jumped the gun on the Gin Kings and even enjoyed a considerable 35-20 cushion–courtesy of Mandani’s back-to-back buckets–early in the second canto.
The Gin Kings, however, fought their way back and threatened within 47-49 midway off a Hill dunk before David took over and led the Batang Pier’s jarring 13-3 run for a big 12-point lead.
Far from done, GlobalPort kept its onslaught early in the fourth, highlighted by Aguilar’s staggering shotblock on a soaring Hill that was translated by Willie Miller into an off-the-glass basket, pushing the Batang Pier to a commanding 77-60 cushion with 7:49 to go.
LA Tenorio made two straight triples for Ginebra but GlobalPort proved too much to handle.
“Ginebra is always tough to beat because of their never-say-die attitude. But we had our version of never-quitting,” stated GlobalPort coach Junel Baculi, who is already bracing for a titanic clash with Talk ‘N Text on Wednesday.
“TNT is a tough opponent. We'll see if we're ready to compete with the big boys so to speak,” he added.
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Earlier, the Tropang Texters blew a big 22-point lead but import Keith Benson delivered key baskets in the stretch to hold off the KG Canaleta-led Air21Express, 86-83.
Outplayed by Meralco rival Eric Dawson in their 92-99 loss last Friday, the 6-foot-10 Benson redeemed himself with game-highs of 30 points and 18 rebounds, including nine points in the payoff period to help the TNT dodge Air21's bullet.
Ranidel De Ocampo, whose back-to-back triples gave the Texters a whopping 68-46 in the third canto, finished with 19 points while Jared Dillinger had 14 markers and six rebounds.
Those stats nearly went for naught as Canaleta, playing under the weather, put the Express on his shoulders in the fourth, drilling in five triples while helping Air21 moved within 77-78 with 3:09 remaining.
Benson then took over, stringing five straight points capped by a completed three-point play as TNT restored its lead at 85-81, time down to just 38.1 seconds.
Air21 guard Bonbon Custodio had the chance to fore an extra five-minute period but his last-gasp three-point attempt failed to find the mark, enabling TNT coach Norman Black and Co. to heave a big sigh of relief.
“It got a little bit scary there in the end,” related Black. “But it’s good we had a good enough cushion and we made some defensive stops in the end.”
“It’s good to finally get our first win in the conference but it’s still a long way. We have to take a look at what we did wrong in that fourth quarter after dominating the game three-fourths of the way,” he added.
Canaleta ended up with 23 points while import Michael Dunigan, who starred in the team’s victory over the Gin Kings, could only collect 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists and as many blocks.
TALK N' TEXT (86) – Benson 30, De Ocampo 19, Dillinger 14, Reyes 8, Al-Hussaini 5, Castro 5, Fonacier 5, Wiliams 0, Carey 0, Alapag 0.
AIR 21 (83) – Canaleta 23, Dunigan 19, Cortez 11, Custodio 8, Baclao 5, Ritualo 5, Wilson 4, Menor 2, Reyes 2, Isip 2, Arboleda 2, Omolon 0.
Quarters: 23-18, 52-33, 72-51, 86-83
GLOBALPORT (89) – Williams 23, David 22, Mercado 12, Aguilar 8, Salvador 8, Mandani 6, Miller 5, Deutchman 3, Yee 2, Crisano 0.
GINEBRA (80) – Hill 22, Caguioa 20, Baracael 8, Tenorio 8, Hatfield 6, Helterbrand 5, Raymundo 5, Ellis 4, Mamaril 2, Jensen 0, Espiritu 0.
Quarters: 29-15, 46-38, 67-56, 89-80