Govs’ Cup title series not just about imports
It’s not going to be just a Justin Brownlee-Allen Durham face-off when Barangay Ginebra and Meralco dispute for the third time in the last four years the PBA Governors’ Cup championship starting Jan. 7 at Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The best-of-seven title series gives Gilas Pilipinas mainstay Stanley Pringle a golden chance of nailing a first-ever championship in the league after he was traded to Ginebra by NorthPort for three Gin Kings early in the last Commissioner’s Cup.
Underscoring his status as a major scoring threat in the title series, Pringle averaged 19 points as the main backup for Brownlee when the Gin Kings ousted the Batang Pier with three successive routs after being outplayed in the opener of their best-of-five semifinal series.
Meralco has no player of Pringle’s caliber in its bid to get back at the Gin Kings, who frustrated the Bolts in their title meetings in 2016 and 2017, but coach Norman Black is not worried a bit.
Black now has the 6-foot-8 Raymond Almazan to take care of either 6-9 Japeth Aguilar or 7-foot Greg Slaughter in the paint and two more valuable additions in shooter Allein Maliksi and promising rookie point guard Bong Quinto.
And Meralco has also shown it has the defense to contain the sharpest of rivals based on how the Bolts starved the TNT KaTropa for points in winning the last two games of their semifinal series to seal the title rematch with the Kings.
After moving within a win of reaching a second straight Finals stint, the KaTropa struggled offensively in a 95-83 Game 4 loss. The Bolts were even more unforgiving in the Game 5 decider with an 89-78 win.
Providing an interesting sidelight will be the performance of former Meralco standout Jared Dillinger, who is now with Ginebra, and Jeff Chan, who has yet to recall his murderous form as a King.
Brownlee and Durham will be the key factors in the series, however. Brownlee is going for a fourth title in seven conferences with Ginebra while Durham is seeking redemption anew after Meralco blew its championship stints in the two seasons where he was honored as Best Import.
Game 2 is set in Lucena City on Jan. 10 with Games 3 and 4 going back to Araneta on Jan. 12 and 15. If necessary, Game 5 will be at Mall of Asia Arena on Jan. 17 with the possible Games 6 and 7 set at Philippine Arena in Bulacan.