In front of a record number of fans during the pandemic era, Tim Cone and Barangay Ginebra reminded everyone of the stranglehold they once had on the PBA Governors’ Cup.
Cone, chuckling after the game, issued the reminder verbally: “We won the two championships before [Magnolia’s reign], you know. I think people tend to forget because of the pandemic”—he was referring to the Hotshots’ title that split what should have been three straight Governors’ Cup for Ginebra.
The Gin Kings, on the other hand, made everyone remember with a throwback performance on the floor.Playing relentlessly on both ends, Barangay Ginebra hammered out a decisive 115-95 victory over TNT at Smart Araneta Coliseum on Saturday, overhauling a twice-to-win disadvantage while extending its reign in the season-ending showcase.
Resident import Justin Brownlee and Scottie Thompson joined hands for a 15-3 spurt in the second frame, forging a 59-48 edge going into the halftime break and manufacturing momentum that the Gin Kings milked the rest of the night.
And what a night it was. Not a few had counted out the Gin Kings and their supposedly aging roster. Most of all, the team faced huge handicaps in their quarterfinal series with Tropang Giga.
“I’ve only done it a few times in my career and so it’s always super special to win a twice-to-win disadvantage. To find a way to do that, it’s really really hard as the odds are way against you. And of course to do it against Chot Reyes and a huge opponent like TNT … it makes it special,” Cone said.
Also making it special was the 10,846 fans who showed up for the match—the most since the coronavirus pandemic locked people in their homes and made them wary of being in crowds.
Brownlee ended up with 29 points that went with 18 rebounds and seven assists, while Thompson sustained his do-it-all form with 17, 10 and nine.
Japeth Aguilar tossed in 26, while LA Tenorio 22 more as the Gin Kings picked apart a TNT side trying to figure out operating with new import Leon Gilmore III.
Mikey Williams had 17 points for Tropang Giga, most of which coming only when the Gin Kings’ hands were already welded to the steering wheel, enjoying leads as big as 23 points.
Four others scored in double digits, including Gilmore III who replaced Aaron Fuller who went down with a calf injury.
“Twice to beat, twice beaten,” TNT coach Chot Reyes told reporters after his club’s unceremonious exit. “I think you were all there when I said that we worked so hard to get the twice-to-beat only to face Ginebra.”
“But that’s just how it is. It was a situation that we would have rather not have happened, but that’s sports. We take the good with the bad,” he added.
The Gin Kings advance to a semifinal duel against NLEX, which lowered the curtains on one of the league’s most iconic franchises with a 96-80 victory over Alaska in the second game.
“I get to go against Yeng Guiao, which is never fun—never, ever ever fun … You never look forward to that,” said Cone, talking about his two potential semifinal opponents before the NLEX result.
Cone also spoke of his “history with Alaska,” which would have made a showdown with the Aces an emotionally tough one.
But Alaska could not add a day to its farewell tour—the team announced it was playing its last tournament in the PBA—after being held to just 11 points in a 14-and-a-half minute span bridging the second and third periods that allowed NLEX to pull away, 51-31.
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