‘Phenomenal’ performance by Brownlee puts Ginebra in PBA finals
It wasn’t long ago when, if someone asked Tim Cone if Barangay Ginebra would even make it to the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals, the answer would be a resounding no.
Then again, the answer would have been different if they had asked the players.
“[W]e are very proud of what these guys did; … they had many reasons to quit at certain points of the conference, to get discouraged, but they kept battling all the way through,” Cone said after a decisive 112-93 victory over NLEX on Wednesday booked for his team a ticket to the championship series.
One guy, most especially, deserves most of the applause.
Justin Brownlee wowed the 10,353 fans at Smart Araneta Coliseum by dropping 47 points along with 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocks in Game 4 of the series to help the Gin Kings forge a 3-1 semifinal wrap up.
“We didn’t want to play a Game 5,” Brownlee told reporters after the game.
“A Game 5 could go either way depending on a lot of things. Certain guys may have a bad game, or the whole team may have a bad game. Or the other team may get so lucky. All those kinds of things. So we just wanted to come out with aggression and focus on not having a Game 5 and just winning this game,” he added.
Waylaid by injuries, the Kings—just this month—needed a virtual do-or-die game just to make the playoffs.
‘Kind of down’
But Ginebra is back in the finals with a shot at defending its crown against either a team it hasn’t tussled with in a championship duel in this conference for a quarter of a century or against a squad that it has dueled with for this particular trophy three times in the last four editions.
And Cone said he owes everything to his players.
“I remember being real down at that point,” Cone said of a four-game slide in the middle of their classification round campaign. “We were [really] down, and kind of questioning ourselves. But the [team’s] leadership took over. They got together and decided to put it away and just move forward.”
“We never would have thought it back then—when we had that losing streak—that we would reach the Finals.”
Ginebra also got the goods from Jeff Chan, who finished with 20 points and LA Tenorio, who chipped in 14 more in a rebound performance from his Game 3 blunder, where he scored a hurried two with the Kings down three in the dying seconds.
Also coming through were Nard Pinto and Christian Standhardinger, who finished with 12 and 10.
“You know, we played without Stanley [Pringle], and that’s No. 1 excuse, if you don’t do well: ‘Oh, we didn’t have Stanley.’ And in the playoffs, ‘Oh, we didn’t have Japeth [Aguilar],’ you know? Excuses that we could have used and [the players] could have used. But the players—they didn’t,” said Cone.
Little local help
“It was next man up. Joe [Devance] played a great series … Christian really raised the level of his game and played the perfect role for us,” he added. “And again, we all go back to Justin.”
“Life’s a lot easier when you have Justin around. What a phenomenal performance,” Cone said. “We had the pleasure of seeing that in five conferences now. Every time he comes, he just amazes me more and more.”
Import Cameron Clark had 34 points and 12 rebounds, but hardly had enough help from NLEX’s locals. Don Trollano and Justin Chua were the only other players in double digits.
Still, it was a brave stand by the Road Warriors, who faced their own manpower woes.
“Overall we’re happy with our semifinal finish,” said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao. “It’s been a long time since we made it to the semifinals. We ran into some bad breaks. KJ [McDaniels] had to go home, we lost Jericho [Cruz to free agency], we lost Tony Semerad and Calvin [Oftana]. In spite of those, we feel we had a good series.”
“Particularly in this game, we did not get the breaks, I was frustrated with the officiating. I guess we couldn’t get any momentum with officiating like that. We understand that any time you play Ginebra you always need to make allowances so that’s part of playing Ginebra. But they deserve to be in the Finals. They’ve gone through a lot of things also. But at the same time, I wish we could’ve given them a better fight. But we will come back stronger in the All-Filipino,” he added.
Magnolia, meanwhile, beat Meralco to extend their own semifinal bracket to a decider. A duel with the Hotshots will forge the first Governors’ Cup title tiff in 25 years pitting the corporate siblings. Meanwhile, a clash with the Bolts will be the fourth in their one-sided rivalry.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.