Christian Standhardinger saved the day for Barangay Ginebra, burying the game-winning putback that capped off an 87-85 comeback win over NorthPort in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Friday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Standhardinger grabbed the offensive rebound on a Stanley Pringle airball in the final three seconds and put up a wild fall-away shot to lift the defending champions over a scrappy Batang Pier team and even their record to 2-2 in the conference.
But the previous defensive possession was just as crucial and actually set up the Fil-German's dagger. Tied at 85 in the final nine seconds, Japeth Aguilar chased down NorthPort rookie Jamie Malonzo to block a wide-open fast break dunk and give the Gin Kings the last possession of the game.
The duo's heroics completed an impressive recovery from 13 down for a Ginebra team that was seconds away from losing a second straight game in the All-Filipino wars.
Standhardinger finished with a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Gin Kings, while Aguilar added 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists, a steal and a one huge swat in the endgame.
Pringle put up 24 points on 10-for-19 shooting along with five rebounds, two assists and a steal to lead all scorers, while LA Tenorio scored 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and added four triples, seven assists and five boards in the comeback victory.
"It looked pretty bleak there," head coach Tim Cone admitted. "When Malonzo had that breakaway layup, it looked pretty bleak and looked like we were gonna lose the basketball game. But then Japeth hustles down, comes out of nowhere and blocks the dunk. Amazing. Didn't quit on the play."
"And Christian didn't quit on the play, either. He kept running down the floor, he was down there with Japeth on the block, but yet he came all the way back down the floor and within seven seconds, got that offensive rebound and put it in for the win," he added. "We're just trying to find ways to win it, and we were lucky we found a way to win tonight."
Ginebra found itself on the back foot early against NorthPort, which jumped to a 22-9 lead in the first quarter thanks to eight quick points from Sidney Onwubere.
Robert Bolick and Jerrick Balanza stabilized the Batang Pier after Ginebra pulled within three early in the second quarter, combining for 20 of the Batang Pier's 29 points before halftime for a 51-42 lead.
But the reigning champions would not go away easily, as an 8-0 Ginebra run punctuated by an Aguilar dunk on the break trimmed the deficit to 51-50 and set the tone for a third quarter struggle where Ginebra tied NorthPort twice.
The Batang Pier briefly recovered, but Tenorio heeded the call to take charge when the fourth quarter came around.
Tenorio hit a triple and a pair of free throws to give Ginebra its first taste of the lead at 74-73 past the halfway mark of the final quarter, then he later hit another triple and found Aguilar underneath to stretch the lead to seven, 85-78, with over two minutes left in the game.
But just as it looked like NorthPort was dead in the water, a Greg Slaughter basket and a Robert Bolick triple sliced the lead to two and kept the team within striking distance in the final 57 seconds.
Another stop in the following possession and a pair of free throws from Sean Anthony knotted the game at 85 in the final 31 seconds and set the stage for a wild finish.
"We got off to a poor start, as we've been doing in all of our four games. We really got to look at that and figure out what we're doing wrong there. But as long as we continue to battle," Cone remarked, "things will start to turn around as they did in this game. We battled and battled and finally the team started to turn around, and we started making some shots and making some stops. And then those great two plays down the stretch, in the last possession. Really fantastic."
The win also overshadowed a pair of quality performances from NorthPort's Bolick and Greg Slaughter.
Bolick led the Batang Pier with 23 points built around 4-for-6 3s, four rebounds, four assists and a steal, while Slaughter put up a 16-point, 14-rebound double-double along with a block in his first face-off against the same Gin Kings team that traded him away in the offseason.
"Greg is playing really well. He's very active on the floor," Cone noted. "His first game was against June Mar (Fajardo), and now the second game was Christian and Japeth who were tag-teaming him. Those are gonna be the toughest opponents for him personally. Things are gonna work really well."
"That 1-2 punch of Bolick and Greg is just gonna grow and get better, and I think they're really gonna be a contender. They lost to San Miguel by two points on a last-second shot by Arwind, and then now they lost again by two points on a last-second shot by Christian. Those shots eventually are not gonna make it in, and they're gonna win basketball games. As long as they're gonna continue playing the way they're playing, they're gonna be tough for anybody to beat."
Balanza also impressed against his former team and put up 14 points and three 3s, three rebounds and an assist, and Anthony bucked a bad shooting night to wind up with 11 points (3-for-12 field goals), 11 rebounds, three assists and a steal.
NorthPort fell to 1-3 after its second straight loss to a game-winning shot in the tournament.
GINEBRA (87) -- Pringle 24, Tenorio 20, Aguilar 15, Standhardinger 13, Dillinger 5, Caperal 5, Chan 0, Tolentino 0, Enriquez 0, Ayaay 0.
NORTHPORT (85) -- Bolick 23, Slaughter 16, Balanza 14, Anthony 11, Malonzo 9, Onwubere 8, Grey 2, Rike 2, Elorde 0, Lanete 0, Doliguez 0.
Quarter scores: 16-22, 42-51, 61-63, 87-85.
- The PBA announced the cancellation of the Blackwater-Phoenix game scheduled on Saturday at 2 p.m right after the Ginebra-NorthPort clash, citing health and safety protocols.
- Scottie Thompson was a game-high +23 after recording five points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in 31 minutes off the bench,
- NorthPort vs. TNT on Sunday, August 1, at 2:00 p.m
- Barangay Ginebra vs. San Miguel on Sunday, August 1, at 4:35 p.m