(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
Game 1, best-of-5 semi-final series
7 p.m. – Meralco vs. Talk ‘N Text
BARANGAY Ginebra relied on a solid second half showing to turn back sister-team San Miguel, 115-108 in Game 1 of their PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Gin Kings chalked up their first win in the best-of-five semis affair.
Justin Brownlee sizzled with an all-around performance of 39 points and 16 rebounds to lead the way for Ginebra against the defending champions.
Not to be outdone, Japeth Aguilar and Sol Mercado also had brilliant performances for the locals’ side, finishing with 22 and 19 points, respectively.
Joe Devance and Scottie Thompson added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
A strong first-half showing was all the Beermen needed to douse repeated rallies of the Gin Kings, as Fajardo already had 14 points at the break.
San Miguel overshadowed the 20-point production of Ginebra import Justin Brownlee and led by 11 points, 57-46 at the end of the first half.
But a different story unfolded in the third period, as the Gin Kings suddenly caught fire behind the efforts of Sol Mercado and Japeth Aguilar and took a three-point advantage, 79-76 at the end of the third canto
Ginebra continued its run in the payoff period behind Brownlee, Mercado and Thompson for a 105-99 advantage in the last four and a half minutes.
But San Miguel has other ideas, as Alex Cabagnot and Elijah Millsap carried the fight for the Beermen and trimmed the gap to three, 102-105 with 3:58 remaining.
Mercado then bailed Ginebra with a timely trey for a 108-102 advantage going into the last two minutes.
Brownlee then took charge on offense, scoring five points in the last 36.1 seconds for a 113-103 lead.
Marcio Lassiter then drilled a trey to trim the gap, 106-113, but Ginebra will not be denied, as Thompson sank his charities for the win.
Meanwhile, Meralco coach Norman Black admitted having seen his Bolts play their best game thus far in the conference in their quarterfinal tussle against Mahindra.
“It was probably our best game this conference and a big win for the Meralco basketball program” said Black after routing the Enforcers, 105-82, last Sept 24 in a victory that clinched for them a spot in the best-of-5 semifinal series against Talk ‘N Text.
Having overcome the first hurdle in the playoff round, the Bolts are now up against another challenge.
“Our matchup with Talk ‘N Text will be another big challenge,” said Black, referring to their Final Four series with the Tropang Texters which will start today with Game 1 set at 7 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
In their quarterfinal tussle against the Enforcers, everybody contributed in their cause, with import Allen Durham and locals Cliff Hodge and Jared Dillinger providing steady fire as Meralco completed a ghastly rout of the Enforcers.
However, Black believes the Bolts cannot beat the Tropang Texters in high scoring ball game, knowing full well that the TNT has got a number of explosive scorers led by Jason Castro.
Only last time around, the Texters routed Phoenix Fuels in the quarters, 136-124, in a high-scoring game that saw four of their locals – Ryan Reyes, Larry Fonacier, Kelly Williams and Ranidel de Ocampo – finish in double figures. Their regular import Mychal Lemar Ammons and Asian import Mike Madanly also pumped in double-digit scores.
That’s how daunting the game for the Bolts against the Texters, but Black is particularly wary of Jason Castro who exploded with 42 points, including five triples.
Black admitted slowing down Castro while also covering the TNT’s outside shooters will be a tough task.
“We will have to play very good defense, because it’s difficult to beat them in a high scoring game,” said Black.
It will be the first time in 15 years that Black is meeting TNT coach Jong Uichico in a playoff or since 2001 Governors’ Cup finals.
Black was then with the Sta. Lucia Realty while Uichio was with San Miguel Beer.
Ginebra (115) – Brownlee, 39, Aguilar 22, Mercado 19, Devance 12, Thompson 11, Caguioa 8, Mariano 4, Cruz 0, Tenorio 0, Marcelo 0.
San Miguel (108) – Millsap 29, Fajardo 25, Cabagnot 20, Santos 15, Lassiter 14, Tubid 3, Espinas 2, Ross 0.
Quarterscores: 24-36, 46-57, 79-76, 115-108.