How Ginebra gunned down Bay Area Dragons


YOU had a coach waving 24 titles going to a Game 7 decider of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup trophy.

You had another coach on the other end bragging an Olympic bronze medal going to the win-it-all match.

Honestly now, who did you choose to win?

Tim Cone of Brgy. Ginebra, the winningest PBA coach ever?

Or Brian Goorjian, who mentored unfancied Australia to third-place in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games?

If we go by stats, Goorjian’s Bay Area Dragons had the grander record going to the final clash than Cone’s Ginebra Gin Kings.

The visitors from Hong Kong topped the eliminations with a 10-2, win-loss record.  However, one of their losses was inflicted by the Gin Kings.

And, in their second meeting that became the Finals opener on Christmas Day, Ginebra made it back-to-back by assembling a 96-81 rout.

Shining brightly in that one-sided win was Justin Brownlee, the 6-foot-6 Ginebra import, who fired 28 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and issued six assists.

But shining brightest that night was LA Tenorio, whose 22 points proved to be the game-changer even as the Gin Kings immediately made their intentions clear by recording a 58-35 margin in rebounding over their admittedly taller opponents.

The euphoria was short lived, though, as Hong Kong came back roaring in Game 2, constructing a 99-82 victory behind Zhu Song Wei’s blazing 25 points to level the series at 1-1.

The next four games became a pendulum affair as both sides won two matches apiece.

Game 3 went to Ginebra (89-82), Game 4 to Bay Area (94-86) as Kobey Lam exploded with eight triples for 30 points, Game 5 to Ginebra (101-91) and Game 6 to Bay Area (87-84) for the 3-3 deadlock in the best-of-seven Finals.

Naturally, a thriller was eagerly anticipated in the you-or-me Game 7 clash.

All-in as in poker.

Everything must go as in a garage sale.

No more tomorrow as in a gun duel between two men fighting for the love of the woman of their dreams.

Alas, there was none of that.

Almost as immediately as the bark of the starting gun was fired, Brownlee fired two straight jumpers to ignite what was to become one of the most—if not the most—lopsided victory in a Game 7 in PBA lore.

After grabbing a 27-21 first quarter lead, Ginebra went on to erect an ego-inflating 61-39 bulge at halftime, which all but wrote finis to a crown clash that was much ballyhooed as a fight to the finish, a combat to the last gasp of breadth.

So ridiculously one-sided was the contest that Ginebra led at one point by 28 unreachable points.

And even as the thoroughly outgunned Dragons had crept to within 13 points, the outcome was never put in doubt as the Gin Kings cruised courageously to a title-clinching 114-99 victory before a record 54,589 mostly pro-Ginebra fans at the Philippine Arena in fireworks-famous Bocaue, Bulacan.

Brownlee banged home 34 points, getting ample support from Tenorio, Scottie Thompson, the game’s best player Jamie Malonzo, the dunking Japeth Aguilar and Christian Standhardinger, who emerged the Finals’ Most Valuable Player.

“The energy from the crowd really boosted us to levels I don’t think we could get to,” said Cone, adding, “we were not just playing for the fans around the country but for the league itself.”

So true.  It all boiled down to a battle between the PBA and the fire-spewing invaders from Hong Kong—if not between the Philippines and China.

The difference is the same?

THAT’S IT The happiest person perhaps with the Ginebra victory was Ramon S. Ang, the low-key Gin Kings owner whose squad won its 15th PBA title a day after he celebrated his birthday (January 14).  Cheers!

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