JAPETH Aguilar is nearing his top form.
Testament to that is Aguilar scoring 20 points in leading Barangay Ginebra to a 105-91 victory over Meralco Sunday and into a share of the lead in the PBA Philippine Cup bubble at the Smart 5G-powered Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena.
Stanley Pringle, Jeff Chan and rookie Arvin Tolentino also delivered as the Kings wrested full control in the second quarter, erected several 24-point leads before cruising to their third win in as many games and moving alongside idle TNT and Rain or Shine.
Coach Tim Cone credited his team's concerted efforts to make stops for the win, far more comfortable than a 103-99 decision over Blackwater just last Thursday.
"I just thought it was a really great defensive effort by us tonight," said Cone.
"We played great defense. I thought we did a pretty good job on their pick-and-roll, and we weren't getting a lot of breakdowns," added Cone.
"We were forcing a lot of tough shots, getting rebounds and we were creating a lot of offense on our defense. I thought that was the best... part for me."
Allein Maliksi's 18 points and Reynel Hugnatan's 16 led Meralco, which got swallowed up whole when Ginebra's game fully kicked into place and thus dropped it to a 1-2 slate.
The Kings' win made extra special a landmark occasion for a cherished player.
With Ginebra comfortably ahead, 92-68, 6:35 left, Mark Caguioa was inserted into the game marking the first time he saw action in the bubble.
With that formal start of his 18th season with Ginebra, Caguioa became the league's longest-tenured player with a single ballclub, surpassing the stints of Alvin Patrimonio with Purefoods and Harvey Carey with TNT, both 17 seasons.
Aguilar, who was a late arrival in the bubble and went into the game averaging just nine points, capped his breakout game with nine points in the fourth quarter highlighted by a three-point play that made it a 90-68 count.
Pringle set it all up, scoring all of his points by the end of the third quarter and even boomed in a 3 that made it a 77-60 bulge. (NC)
Ginebra 105 - Aguilar 20, Pringle 16, Chan 12, Tolentino 11, Caperal 9, Mariano 8, Thompson 7, Tenorio 6, Devance 6, Dillinger 5, Balanza 3, Caguioa 2, Salado 0, Dela Cruz 0, R. Aguilar 0.
Meralco 91 - Maliksi 18, Hugnatan 16, Amer 10, Newsome 10, Jackson 6, Almazan 6, Black 5, Quinto 4, Jamito 4, Jose 3, Pinto 2, Caram 2, Faundo 0, Salva 0.
Quarters: 20-20, 51-39, 74-60, 105-91.