After nine years and 356 games as a professional player, Ginebra Kings’ Jun Limpot is finally making his first appearance in a Philippine Basketball Association finals. The long wait came to an end for Limpot last Friday night as Ginebra recovered from successive defeats and subdued Formula Shell Turbo Chargers, 75-66, in the deciding Game Five of their PBA All-Filipino Cup semifinal series.
And Limpot made the biggest difference in the highly-emotional match played before a big crowd at the Araneta Coliseum, scoring 20 points to lead the Kings to their first finals appearance in four years.
By wrapping up the best-of-five series, 3-2, the Kings set up a showdown with San Miguel Beermen — the first finals duel between sister teams in the pro league’s 26-year history.
San Miguel, the league’s highest winning team of all time, will be looking for its 16th title and the Kings their first since winning the 1997 Commissioner’s Cup with Robert Jaworski as head coach.
The finals clash will also be the first for the two popular teams since San Miguel bought La Tondena, Inc., owner of the Ginebra ballclub, from the Palanca family.
No one could be happier than Limpot, the 1993 rookie awardee who failed to reach the finals in seven seasons as Sta. Lucia Realtors franchise player.
Last night, the 6-5 Limpot was a pillar for Ginebra. He made seven of 12 shots, grabbed nine rebounds and had four assists in one of the most memorable games of his career.
Still, the Kings needed a fourth-quarter spark from rookie Mark Caguioa, who keyed a 13-6 run to turn back the last of Shell’s many rallies in the game.
Caguioa, scored 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. He made two freethrows, nailed a huge three-pointer and had an assist during that decisive run that gave Ginebra a 64-51 advantage with 708 remaining.
Ronald Magtulis scored 11 points and Bal David had 11 as Ginebra’s starters outscored Shell’s, 52-42.
Turbo Chargers’ Benjie Paras scored 15 points to lead Shell.