MANILA, Philippines – Barangay Ginebra refused to go down 0-2 in the PBA Governors’ Cup finals as it averted a major collapse against Meralco and hacked out a 99-93 win at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday, April 8.
Justin Brownlee put the Gin Kings on his back with a near triple-double of 36 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal to help his side knot the best-of-seven championship duel at 1-1.
Ginebra savored a lead as big as 20 points but appeared on its way to squandering its massive advantage late in the fourth quarter before Brownlee delivered the crucial hits in the final two minutes.
Brownlee stole the ball from Chris Banchero and flushed home a thunderous two-handed slam to give the Gin Kings a 96-91 lead and knocked down a trio of free throws with 30 seconds left to keep the Bolts at bay.
Scottie Thompson continued his stellar play with 16 points and 11 rebounds as Ginebra prevented Meralco from taking a 2-0 series edge for the first time in their four Governors’ Cup title showdowns.
“It was just a matter of trying to keep our poise,” said Gin Kings head coach Tim Cone.
“You wish you hold that lead all the way through. But in the finals, it can be difficult, because the team you’re playing is really good.”
Their presence hardly felt in their Game 1 loss, guards LA Tenorio and John Pinto redeemed themselves with 13 and 10 points, respectively, including timely triples in their second-quarter turnaround.
Pinto and Tenorio accounted for 4 of their 7 treys in the second period as Ginebra grabbed a 60-42 halftime lead, putting to waste the 16 big points Tony Bishop produced in the opening quarter that put Meralco ahead, 23-20.
The Bolts, however, stormed back thanks to a valiant effort from sophomore guard Aaron Black, who fired a career-high 24 points on top of 6 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 steals in his finest PBA performance yet.
Black erupted for 15 points in the third quarter alone as Meralco trimmed its deficit to 71-82 going into the final salvo, where they pushed the Gin Kings to the limit before Brownlee saved the day.
Christian Standhardinger delivered another double-double of 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 steals for Ginebra, while Jeff Chan and Aljon Mariano connived for 12 points.
Bishop finished with 31 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals for the Bolts, who missed the deadly scoring of Allein Maliksi.
Maliksi netted a team-high 22 points and 8 rebounds in Game 1 but went scoreless this time after going 0-of-7 from the field.
Barangay Ginebra 99 – Brownlee 36, Thompson 16, Tenorio 13, Standhardinger 12, Pinto 10, Chan 7, Mariano 5, Salado 0, Onwubere 0, Devance 0, Ayaay 0.
Meralco 93 – Bishop 31, Black 24, Banchero 14, Newsome 7, Almazan 6, Quinto 5, Hodge 4, Baclao 0, Maliksi 0, Belo 0, Hugnatan 0.
Quarters: 20-23, 60-42, 82-71, 99-93.