Ginebra reaches Governors’ Cup Finals after dethroning SMB in lopsided fashion

By Julian Reyes

QUEZON CITY—Heading into their do-or-die game against San Miguel, Barangay Ginebra head coach Tim Cone vowed not to repeat the team’s poor showing on 101-72 blowout loss in Game Four, and instead made a promise to make the fans proud.

“Such a beautiful crowd last night, yet we fell flat on our faces. They were great even if we were not. But we will pick ourselves up and fight for the fans on Game 5. We will make you proud,” posted Cone in his Twitter account on Monday.

Thanks to Justin Brownlee, Scottie Thompson, Sol Mercado, LA Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar and the rest of the Barangay Ginebra, Cone lived up to his promise.

Ginebra’s starters caught fire early and put on a dazzling show from start to finish to avenge their previous loss against defending champions San Miguel Beermen, 117-92, and book the last seat in the 2016 PBA Governors’ Cup Finals at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

A blistering 33-12 lead after the first quarter set nothing but the best performance for the crowd darling Barangay Ginebra so far this season, and it came when it mattered most against a team which won three of the last five PBA titles and being bannered by reigning back-to-back MVP June Mar Fajardo.

“Such a redemptive win. We were really embarrassed in Game Four, but this was redemption,” said the PBA’s most winningest coach Cone.

Determined to reach the finals after three years, Barangay Ginebra proved unstoppable on Tuesday, getting inspired performances from anyone who stepped for them inside the court.

Playing the biggest game of his young career so far, the 5-foot-11 rookie Thompson registered a double-double anew, pouring in a career-high 24 points on four of seven 3-point shooting while grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds. The former NCAA MVP scored 15 points in the first quarter alone before continuing the business the rest of the way.

Putting another all-around performance as usual was the 6-foot-5 Ginebra’s import Brownlee who recorded 26 points on 10 of 18 shooting, including 10 rebounds, seven assists and three steals.

The duo of Mercado and Tenorio also showed their veteran savvy, contributing 22 and 18 points respectively while combining for nine triples, which came mostly when Ginebra needed someone to take over as the Beermen tried for a rally. The latter added six boards and 10 assists as Ginebra took another opportunity to end their eight-year title drought against finals debutant Meralco Bolts.

Despite another low-scoring performance, the high-flying Aguilar still soared for Ginebra, pulling defensive stops on Fajardo and SMB’s import Elijah Millsap multiple times in the game to finish with five points, six rebounds, two steals and three rejections.

“When we got blown out and we come back in Game 5, we said bahala na, just shoot it. If we lose, we lose. If we win, we win. But shoot the ball,” Cone conveyed.

Unlike in Game 4, not even a meltdown during the second frame of this game was able to stop the hungry Ginebra side from getting the elusive finals berth for them as they bounced back in the third and made sure things go smoothly down the stretch.

Seeing an early 25-point lead getting trimmed down to only one after San Miguel’s 24-0 blast, Ginebra regained steam in the third frame and leaned on Brownlee, Thompson, Mercado, Tenorio and another rookie Aljon Mariano to get the game wide open.

After Brownlee and Thompson drilled two successive triples at the start of the third canto, Ginebra went on a 23-8 run to close the frame and take a decisive 81-53 lead heading into the last canto.

Not letting another meltdown, Ginebra then answered every San Miguel’s baskets, stretched the lead to as far as 34 points to get the job done.

Being the tallest man in the game with the absence of Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter, the 6-foot-10 Fajardo failed to create impact after getting shoot down by Ginebra’s stingy defense down low, finishing with only seven points built all in the free throw line. He was limited to only single attempt despite getting five offensive boards of his total 12.

Kapampangan forward Arwind Santos top scored the Beermen with 24 points while Millsap, who failed  to anchor San Miguel into the promise land, mustered 18 points on a dismaying 30 percent shooting.

Cold as the rain outside was the performance of Marcio Lassiter, who drilled seven triples prior, as he only scored 11 this time.

Box Scores:

Ginebra 117–Brownlee 26, Thompson 24, Mercado 22, Tenorio 18, Mariano 11, Devance 6, Aguilar 5, Caguioa 2, Helterbrand 2, Marcelo 1, Cruz 0, Villamor 0

San Miguel 92–Santos 24, Millsap 18, Lassiter 11, Cabagnot 10, Heruela 9, David 7, Fajardo 7, Reyes 3, Ross 3, Arana 0, De Ocampo 0, Espinas 0, Semerad 0, Tubid 0

Quarterscores: 33-12, 45-38, 81-53, 117-92

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