Brgy. Ginebra and Bay Area close out semis foes, begin title duel on Christmas Day
Bay Area’s quest to end its guest participation in the PBA with a championship will go through one of the league’s premier squads and its legion of fans.
The Dragons and Barangay Ginebra set up an intriguing battle for the Commissioner’s Cup trophy following their semifinal clinchers on Wednesday, December 21, 2022, at the Mall of Asia Arena, with their decorated coaches bracing for a difficult struggle.
The two teams open their title chase on Christmas Day, in a best-of-seven series which will be new for Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist and Australia National Basketball League champion mentor Brian Goorjian.
“Nothing but respect for [Ginebra coach] Tim Cone, nothing but respect for that team,” Goorjian said after Bay Area snuffed out the Grand Slam bid of San Miguel Beer with a 94-92 victory in Game 4 of the semifinal duel. “They dominated the semifinals, they dominated the quarters, they dominated the finish to their season, they dominated us the first time they played us.”
The Kings will make the local teams’ last stand this conference, looking to foil the Dragons from adding to the list of guest squads to have won PBA titles. The last of those squads Northern Consolidated Cement (NCC), which the late coaching great Ron Jacobs steered to the 1985 Reinforced Conference.
Jacobs and NCC’s naturalized player, Dennis Still, were acquaintances of Goorjian’s father, who recently passed on, adding a layer of sentiment to the Australian national team coach’s title quest.
The Dragons will enter the Finals a favorite, but will also carry the scar of a 111-93 beating they received at the hands of the Kings, who dealt the team their first loss here.
But Bay Area has shown marked progression since then, as evidenced by the way they closed out San Miguel in the race-to-three affair, 3-1. And the Dragons look to continue that growth.
“I’m hoping that we got better, hoping we get an opportunity to prepare till the 25th and there’ll be no excuses,” Goorjian said. “I have never been to the NBA, I have never been involved in a seven-game series.”
Ginebra shut down semifinal foe Magnolia also in four games, with Wednesday night’s 99-84 rout sealing a Finals berth.
And Cone is not putting too much stock on the Kings’ elimination round conquest of the Dragons.
“I think that surprised us more than it surprised them, in terms of that we beat them like we did,” said Cone as he tries to get a record-extending 25th PBA crown at Goorjian’s expense.
Also looking to stretch a record is Justin Brownlee, who will stake his unbeaten slate in a Finals match. Brownlee has won all five previous times he competed for a championship.
“It feels good every time. It definitely doesn’t get old, the feeling,” Brownlee said after posting 24 points, 14 rebounds, six assists in finishing off Magnolia and boosted his chances of a third Best Import award. “Just making it to the finals, it feels the same.”
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