Barangay Ginebra has long been known for its never-say-die attitude. Add now its "next man up" mentality.
Minus Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, Sol Mercado, Jervy Cruz, Raymond Aguilar and Art dela Cruz, the Gin Kings still mustered the will to fight and win, pulling off a 110-102 triumph over the San Miguel Beermen in the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Sunday night.
The remaining warm bodies in the Ginebra lineup dug in their inner resolve to humble the Beermen and solidify their record at third place at 4-1.
It's actually a duel of teams hit by health woes.
Sans June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter, the Beermen struggled badly and went down with a second loss in four starts.
"We're fortunate that June Mar (Fajardo) and Marcio (Lassiter) didn't play for them. On the other hand, we also had guys not playing as well. It's a key game for both, and we're happy to pull this one," said Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
"We know we're gonna get our guys back at some point, but we don't want them back when we're already in an impossible position like when we're knocked out or on the bottom four," Cone also said.
The Kings stayed right behind the Blackwater Elite (4-0) and the Phoenix Fuel Masters (5-1) - thanks largely on the exploits of Justin Brownlee, Aljon Mariano and Joe Devance.
Brownlee piled up 29 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists, Mariano matched his career high 20 points while Devance came through with 17 markers, seven dish-offs and two rebounds.
Cone made special mention of Devance who himself has been nursing an injury.
"He's not supposed to play for a week and a half, but when he saw Japeth injured in practice, he came up to me and said he would play through pain. My hats off to Joe for fighting through everything," said Cone.
Mariano's effort was not lost on the Ginebra coach.
"He's been playing well in practice, and it's good he's now showing it in the game. He stepped up big time in this game defending, rebounding and running the breaks. He played really well," said Cone.
Devance and Mariano themselves starred in a key run the Kings unleashed to open a double-digit spread at 97-86 entering the homestretch.
Before that, neither team was able to lead by more than eight. It was a close match marked by nine lead changes and seven deadlocks.
Christian Standhardinger and Arwind Santos led the fight for the Beermen with the former collecting 25 points and 11 rebounds while the latter produced 22 markers and eight boards.
Santos spiked his game with 6-of-9 three-pointers, the last pushing SMB to within one at 84-85.
But then came Ginebra's 14-2 attack to make a crucial separation (SB)