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“WHAT ‘yah gonna do when the chips are down?” You never say die!

And that’s exactly what Barangay Ginebra San Miguel did with their backs against the wall. They literally fought for dear life, minus the deafening cheers of their throng of diehard fans and two of their stellar starting players.

As the PBA Philippine Cup defending champions, the Gin Kings managed to live on–at least for the time being–by winning today’s lone do-or-die, win-or-go-home game against an equally determined Phoenix Fuel Masters, 95-85 at the Don Honorio Ventura State University gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.

With another stroke of genius, the Kings’ coach, the multi-titled Tim Cone, slipped back-up big man Prince Caperal (in photo, white jersey) in his starting lineup, and shone tremendously throughout the game by grabbing a team-high 19 points.

What a time to shine for Caperal, a proven shock trooper in Cone’s arsenal in last year’s lone conference, in the absence of main big man Japeth Aguilar.

Aguilar was down with a sprained MCL and will be out for the rest of the conference.

Also missing in the Ginebra lineup is high-flying guard Scottie Thompson, who missed playing because of the league’s health and safety protocols.

The Fuel Masters also missed the services of two key players, forward Vic Manuel (groin injury) and Justin Chua, who was also placed under the PBA’s health and safety protocols.

The Phoenix Fuel Masters were a wall to climb over for the Kings to reach the quarterfinals and keep their crown. But waiting for them is an even bigger wall to conquer: the TNT Tropang Giga, the PBA Philippine Cup elimination round topnotchers.

But the Gin Kings can perhaps draw inspiration from a previous quarterfinals series that went down in dramatic, last-second fashion 22 years ago, also during the Philippine Cup, then known as the 1999 McDonald’s PBA All-Filipino Cup.

The Mobiline Phone Pals (now TNT Tropang Giga), despite being the top seed with a twice-to-beat advantage, lost to a motley crew but eternally crowd favorite Barangay Ginebra. A last-second heave by spitfire Ginebra point guard Bal David was the final nail in the coffin that dashed Mobiline’s semis hopes.

Will history repeat itself, or will the Philippine Cup crown be dislodged from its perch atop the Gin Kings’ head?

(PHOTO CREDIT: pba.ph)

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