Ginebra draws first blood in PBA Finals
Justin Brownlee shouldered much of the offensive load early on for Barangay Ginebra—and then some late in the game. In the end though, Japeth Aguilar delivered the play that mattered.
Brownlee had four free throws in the last 33 seconds and the Kings defense held on in the stretch, holding Meralco scoreless in the last 82 seconds for a 91-87 victory on Tuesday night, January 7, 2020, in Game 1 of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
In front of close to 11,000 fans, the Kings were forced to play to the pace of the Bolts, fell by 10 in the third quarter and still somehow managed to win the series opener. For a team loaded with scorers, Ginebra won this one on the defensive end, with Aguilar coming up with the definitive stop for a 1-0 Finals lead.
Aguilar shadowed a drive by Meralco import Allen Durham and came up with the cushion-saving block with 11.3 seconds remaining to preserve an 89-87 Ginebra lead. Forced to foul, the Bolts put Brownlee on the stripe and the Ginebra reinforcement sank the cementing freebies that put the result beyond reversal.
“I honestly feel his is the way it’s going to be every game—grind [it] out, fight to the end,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone. “Meralco’s so disciplined it’s so hard to get them out of tempo.”
“It really just came down to each possession. You blow one possession, you blow the game,” he added.
For most of the game, it seemed that it was Meralco that dictated the tempo. The Bolts started strong off the gates and, even after settling for a tied first quarter, were still delivering the more telling blows in the first three quarters.
But Meralco was also the team that blew crucial possessions, wasting several chances to pad a one-point lead in what was shaping up to be a you-or-me battle down the stretch.
And after Durham gave the Bolts an 87-86 lead in the final 1:22, Chris Newsome turned the ball over on a traveling violation that eventually led to two free throws by Brownlee with 33 seconds remaining.
The Bolts had a shot at reclaiming the lead but rookie Bong Quinto flubbed a three-point try and Meralco had to send Stanley Pringle to the stripe to stop the clock.
Pringle’s split left the Kings with an assailable cushion and the Bolts with 23 seconds to make their attack. But Aguilar stuck hard to Durham’s shoulder on a drive then smothered the Meralco import’s last attempt.
“We kind of felt that he was going to take over,” said the high-flying Aguilar. “I just tried to focus on him, and fortunately I got the block.”
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