Ginebra’s Ronald Tubid (11) provides help to teammate Billy Mamaril as they foil San Miguel Beer’s Dorian Peña’s shot during their KFC PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal showdown at the Astrodome. JUN MENDOZA]

MANILA, JANUARY 10, 2009 (STAR) By Nelson Beltran - Sta. Lucia Realty gained another big step in its title-retention bid as it eased out Rain or Shine, 92-85 even as Ginebra forced a sudden death with a pulsating 91-88 decision over San Miguel Beer in the KFC PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals at the Astrodome last night.

The Realtors used a strong finish to overcome a lethargic start and a poor 28-percent field-goal shooting as they completed a two-game sweep of the Elasto Painters to gain the right to challenge elimination-round topnotcher the Alaska Milk Aces in the best-of-seven semifinal round.

Sta. Lucia became the first All-Filipino reigning champion to make a return stint in the Final Four in the last four years.

Earlier, Ronald Tubid came through with huge plays down the stretch and Barangay Ginebra survived Dondon Hontiveros’ career-best 35-point stint and San Miguel Beer’s fierce rally from an 18-point deficit, to force Game Three tomorrow.

Tubid scored a team-high 19 points, including four in the final minute as Ginebra turned back San Miguel to stay in the hunt for a Final Four berth against early semifinalist Talk n Text.

“It’s been said time and again credit goes to the players. But they really deserve the credit in overcoming all the adversities we faced against San Miguel,” said Ginebra coach Jong Uichico.

“Their champions’ heart carried us through in this game, and I hope they continue to do so Sunday,” he added.

The Kings squandered a 61-43 advantage but kept their composure down the stretch with Tubid taking over from Eric Menk with huge plays at the finish.

Menk carried the fight for Ginebra in one stretch in the fourth with a cluster of baskets while Junjun Cabatu and Junthy Valenzuela also delivered with key baskets, helping the Kings level the series after dropping a heartbreaking 77-78 loss in Game One.

The two teams figured in another tough game with the Beermen, this time, blowing go-ahead shots at the finish.

San Miguel surged ahead at 88-87 on a short stab by Dorian Peña with 46.3 seconds left but the Beermen went scoreless the rest of the way.

The Beermen went 0-of-3 in the last 40 seconds with Bonbon Custodio drawing a technical for an illegal timeout, giving Ginebra a charity to make it 90-88 with time down to 38.3 seconds.

Hontiveros missed two outside shots in the ensuing play before Tubid pulled down a crucial defensive rebound, drew a foul and split his free throws. The Beermen then failed to force overtime as Lordy Tugade missed an attempt from way out at the buzzer.

Tubid had three triples in leading the Ginebra scorers. JayjayHelterbrand and Menk contributed 15 points each and Sunday Salvacion chipped in 11.

Hontiveros knocked in three treys and eight two-pointers and was 8-of-8 from the stripe in improving his previous career-high of 33 made with Tanduay in his rookie year in 2002.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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