BOCAUE—The team that has never said die had just enough to hold off an enemy that has taken the same sort of attitude and reach a new milestone for the franchise.
Barangay Ginebra didn’t need a big comeback this time, but had to fend off Meralco before prevailing, 101-96, in a historic Game 7 to repeat as PBA Governors’ Cup champions Friday night at Philippine Arena here.
The Kings erected a 20-point lead in the first half then weathered numerous storms that the hard-fighting Bolts tried to conjure in the last two quarters to repeat as champions for the first time in franchise history and trigger a stomping celebration by its major share of the record 54,086 fans who showed up.
“We hit big shots all night; it was a total team effort,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone shortly after the buzzer as he won his 20th championship in 32 title series appearances. “And to be able to do it in front of 50,000 fans is just so cool.”
The heady LA Tenorio hit some of the biggest shots of the night and finished with 26 points built on 5-for-7 clip from beyond three-point range. Five more Gin Kings chipped in twin digits in a balanced attack that befuddled the Meralco defense.
Justin Brownlee didn’t need to come up with the buzzer-beating triple to win this one for the Kings, though his role in this latest triumph was more pronounced because he was able to play more that just the offensive end.
Tenorio, who will have surgery to correct a right elbow injury on Monday, won the PBA Press Corps-Cignal Finals MVP award. He was also the winner of the same citation last season when the Kings snapped an eight-year title wait.
“We’re not going to stop here; we have more (championships) to win,” Cone declared while addressing the crowd that stayed after the final buzzer to watch the celebration on the floor.
Allen Durham also had 26 points to pace Meralco, with Jared Dillinger shooting 20, his biggest production in the series after being held to single digits in each of the first six games.
“Game 7s are just the most amazing games to play,” Cone said. “You never know what’s going to happen; you just try to do your best while staying calm, staying focused. You just don’t want to let the fans down, let the management down.”
After the final buzzer sounded, amid a deafening crescendo from the roaring crowd, Tenorio gathered his teammates to one section of the floor for a prayer, before they broke up with hands raised and fingers signaling No. 1.
GINEBRA 101—Tenorio 26, Brownlee 23, Thompson 14, Slaughter 12, Aguilar 10, Devance 10, Caguioa 4, Ferrer 2.
MERALCO 96—Durham 26, Dillinger 20, Hodge 14, Newsome 11, Caram 9, Hugnatan 7, Amer 6, Lanete 3.
Quarters: 27-19, 52-37, 81-64, 101-96
Fight another day