Barangay Ginebra San Miguel is the PBA’s most popular team for a reason.
Through the years, Ginebra’s “Never Say Die” mantra has sparked countless comebacks that have captured the imagination of countless generations of fans around the world.
Their most recent game in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup presented them with another chance to overcome a daunting deficit and build on their lore. Ginebra trailed the San Miguel Beermen by 11 points, 92-81, with seven minutes left to play after Marcio Lassiter hit a three-pointer, but they did not roll over.
As they have done on countless occasions over their more than 40 years in the league, they began to slowly claw their way back into the game. It may have been just an elimination game, yet their underwhelming 3-3 start to the season was more than enough reason for them to turn it up a notch and fight like it was the postseason.
Christian Standhardinger kicked off their rally with a putback lay-up and team captain LA Tenorio followed it up with one of his signature floaters in the lane. Japeth Aguilar then threw down back-to-back dunks and, together with a few defensive stops, Ginebra eventually found themselves within just three points, 100-97, with less than three minutes left in the game.
Ginebra was in prime position to steal the game, even without their typical rabid fanbase cheering them on from the stands, before Terrence Romeo took matters into his own hands and stole the show for the Beermen.
A minute after their lead was trimmed to three, the fiery 29-year-old guard completed a dazzling four-point play then stole the ball on the ensuing possession for a lay-up that extended their lead to nine, 106-97.
It was the perfect way to cap off his best game of the conference as he finished with 29 points and six assists. Romeo’s heroics provided San Miguel with enough of a cushion to escape with a 111-102 win that improved their record to 5-2.
The Beermen are now tied with the Meralco Bolts for second place in the standings, behind the TNT Tropang Giga who remain on top with a 7-1 slate despite their loss to this same San Miguel team earlier this week.
Only four games remain for both San Miguel and Ginebra in the regular season and these two teams might be seeing each other earlier than expected if the latter cannot pull themselves together. Ginebra, the winners of last season’s Philippine Cup, is now seventh in the standings with a 3-4 record. The two lowest seeds (7th and 8th) in the postseason will be going up against a foe with a twice-to-beat advantage which may very much be TNT or San Miguel.
It seems as if Ginebra will have to win at least three of their four remaining games if they want to land safely into the #3 vs #6 or #4 vs #5 quarterfinal matchup which will instead be a best-of-three.
With the talent that they have on their roster, it seems as if this is very much the most likely outcome, but a surprise can truly never be counted out in this second consecutive pandemic-riddled Philippine Cup. It remains to be seen whether their “Never Say Die” mantra can lift them to a second consecutive title.
Meanwhile, San Miguel has bounced back strongly from their shocking 110-104 loss to the TerraFirma Dyip last week with two consecutive wins over championship contenders in the past three days–83-67 versus TNT and this one over Ginebra.
The Beermen, whose streak of five consecutive Philippine Cup titles was snapped by Ginebra’s victory last year, are rounding into form at just the right time and find themselves in prime position to reclaim their crown.
Romeo continues to prove his mettle as one of the most lethal scorers in the PBA while 2018 PBA number one overall pick CJ Perez has fit in nicely with the second unit in his first year with the team. The ever-reliable Arwind Santos, Chris Ross, and Marcio Lassiter have continued to defy Father Time and remain top-tier contributors on the league’s deepest team.
Their depth has allowed six-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo to pace himself in his return from a fracture in his right tibia while it has also allowed Alex Cabagnot to be patient with his return from a knee injury. This should only help these two mainstays return to full health which will only boost this team in what figures to be another long playoff run.
The ending of this game could not have been a more fitting encapsulation of what this season has been like for these two teams. However, if Ginebra can regain its footing, this may not be the last time that these sister teams share the court in this year’s Philippine Cup which will be a treat for both the league and its fans.