Ginebra brings the Dragons to their knees in Game 7
Barangay Ginebra just extended an annual scene that first happened in 2016, with the Gin Kings winning another PBA championship for their multitude of faithful to enjoy.
And on Sunday night, before a loud, record crowd of 54,589 at cavernous Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, the Gin Kings may have produced their biggest triumph yet with a 114-99 thrashing of the visiting Bay Area Dragons to claim the Commissioner’s Cup trophy.
In slaying the Dragons, Ginebra emerged victorious in a series that became a pseudo-continental battle between the country’s most popular team and the foreign side from Hong Kong which was welcomed by the PBA as a guest for the midseason tournament.
“We were totally surprised at how well we played and that we were able to handle Bay Area,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone. “The only explanation we can really give was that the crowd really lifted us to that performance.”
It was Ginebra’s sixth title in nine import-laced conferences with Justin Brownlee, who was initially brought to Manila by Cone as a necessity, but has turned out to be the cornerstone of the beloved team’s remarkable run of form.
“The energy from the crowd really boosted us to levels I don’t think we could get to,” added Cone, who extended his record number of titles to 25.
Brownlee, whose journey to become a Filipino ended when President Marcos signed his naturalization into law last week, came through like he has done so many times in the past as Ginebra put together a performance that stunned Bay Area.
He finished with 34 points after going 14-of-22 from the field as Brownlee extended his perfect batting average on the PBA’s grandest stage. He was on fire right from the get-go as Ginebra leaned on a merciless second quarter to turn what was seen before tipoff as a thrilling matchup into an epic mismatch.
Unlike in Game 6 when Brownlee was forced to carry Ginebra on his shoulders before falling short in its first chance at the crown, the Best Import winner got plenty of help.
Scottie Thompson, unsung hero and Honda-PBA Press Corps Finals Most Valuable Player Christian Standhardinger, Jamie Malonzo and Japeth Aguilar were among the heroes in the victory that handed Cone his seventh title as Ginebra coach.
Ginebra led, 61-39, at the half, practically ending any chance of Bay Area to become only the second foreign team to win a PBA conference.
“We talked about it from the beginning of the series that we were playing more than just for ourselves, we were playing more than just for Ginebra and we were playing more for just Ginebra fans,” Cone said. “We were playing for fans around the country and we were playing for the league itself.”
“That was always on our mind as we progressed to this series. Like I said, we were angry we didn’t get Game 6 and we brought that anger into this game,” Cone added.
That status was evident as fans from all walks of life shrugged off the long trip and the evening downpour to witness title No. 15 for Ginebra, which broke its tie for second with sibling rival Magnolia and the now-defunct Alaska franchise.
Only its other sister team, San Miguel Beer, has more championships with 28.
It was a Game 7 to remember for Ginebra, while it was a rubber match to forget for Bay Area.
Bay Area’s shooting was iffy at the beginning—perhaps overwhelmed by the atmosphere playing in a larger facility packed by a loyal throng that jeered the Dragons endlessly—contributing to its slow start and Ginebra’s dominance of the rubber match.
Even Game 6 hero Myles Powell endured some rough moments before getting his rhythm.
By that time, however, the Dragons were way behind and eventually settled for a runner-up trophy—and the respect of Filipino cage fans who saw a different brand of basketball throughout the East Asia Super League outfit’s participation that started in September. INQ