Scottie Thompson buried a game-winning triple and, before he could even catch his breath, made it clear there would be no celebrations just yet.
“The job is not yet done,” the dynamic Barangay Ginebra guard said on national television.
He did a pretty good job completing part of the task, though.
His triple sealed Ginebra’s 83-80 victory over Meralco on Friday night, sending the Kings to the championship series of the PBA Philippine Cup at Angeles University Foundation.
Thompson finished with 20 points, the last three coming with under a second remaining, as he turned a Prince Caperal pass to the corner into a championship ticket. He also had 12 rebounds, the last of which came off the offensive glass, where he tipped in a Stanley Pringle miss for a 76-73 lead at the 1:52 mark of the game that greased the Kings’ path to a 3-2 series victory. And oh, he added seven assists for Ginebra, too.
“Scottie deserves that shot because of all the hard work that he’s been doing,” Ginebra coach Tim Cone said after that match.
Thompson will need to put in more work: Barangay Ginebra faces Ray Parks Jr. and TNT, which made the Finals of an all-Filipino tournament for the first time in eight years after bundling out Phoenix, 91-81, earlier in their own Game 5 semifinal showdown.
Parks had 26 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, spearheading a second half charge that finally deflated the Fuel Masters and sealed TNT’s own 3-2 series triumph.
“He really brought us to the Finals,” TNT coach Bong Ravena said of Parks, who has been the team’s steadiest performer in this grind-out semifinal series that went to its five-game distance.
“He has matured. And we can really see it in his game. He really wants to make his teammates look better. [Ray] proved himself—that he’s a team player, and not an individual player,” Ravena added.
How mature? Parks again produced a high-scoring night without forcing anything. He made 9-of-18 shots from the field and finished with just one turnover. He scored 22 of his total in the last two periods and joined hands with Jayson Castro and RR Pogoy in a big third quarter run where TNT built leads of as many as 17 on the way to a Finals stint.
Parks, however, passed off credit to his teammates despite the dominating performance.
“It’s not just me,” Parks told the Inquirer on his way to the team’s bus. “It’s everybody, man. At the end of the day, it’s a five-on-five sport. My teammates trusted me. Really, we just pulled through as a team.”
It’s going to be a monster clash between two teams that were favorites to win the title as early as the preseason in January, when a freak injury to June Mar Fajardo in training camp practically knocked erstwhile defending champion San Miguel Beer out of contention.
TNT led the bubble tournament early on, before Ginebra took over the top seed at the close of the elimination round. The Kings failed to close out the Bolts in Game 4, necessitating the knockout match, while the Tropang Giga needed to overcome Phoenix’s 2-1 series lead to make the Finals.
“We gave our best. Some runs have to end,” Phoenix coach Topex Robinson said.
“What’s important is the memories and the learning experience here in the bubble,” he added. “Moving forward, it’s something that we can carry on. The experience, the adversities, the triumphs. There’s so many things to be grateful for.”
Phoenix was left helpless against a TNT defense that shackled Matthew Wright, who was limited to 13 points on room-temperature 5-of-19 shooting.
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