IT’s been five years since a Barangay Ginebra team then mentored by Alfrancis Chua last played – and lost — in the finals of the 2013 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Three seasons (2014, 2015, 2016) after that, the Gin Kings advanced no farther than the quarterfinals, before they made the semifinals in 2017, only to be booted out by Talk ‘N Text.
Now, the Gin Kings will try to move closer to the finals of the midseason conference as they meet Rain or Shine in Game 2 of their best-of-5 series today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Gin Kings opened the series with aplomb on Sunday, dominating Rain or Shine, 102-89, in a game where Justin Brownlee, Jeff Chan, Greg Slaughter and Joe Devance alternated on delivering big plays after big plays.
“It’s been our ammo. We’ve been making big plays at the right time. So far, so good,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
“I hope we continue to do it,” added Cone.
The win was actually the eighth straight for the Gin Kings, counting their sweep of their last five outings in the elimination and 2-0 sweep of Meralco in the quarterfinals.
The Gin Kings also avenged their 108-89 loss to the Elasto Painters– one of the five losses they absorbed early in the elimination.
If they beat the Elasto Painters again today in the 7 p.m. tussle, the Gin Kings will move a win away from the finals of the conference which they failed to win in 2013 after they were swept by the Alaska Aces.
The Gin Kings dictated the tempo from start to finish, leading by as many as 24 points. They were at their best in the fourth period when they unloaded a telling 21-2 run that enabled them to out the game away.
Brownlee finished with 35 points that went with 14 rebounds and nine assists while Chan tallied 21 points and four rebounds in a yeoman job against his former team.
Cone, a veteran of countless playoff battles in the past, though is not leaving things to chances, acknowledging that the Elasto Painters will try to find a way to bounce back.
Cone was especially wary of what he saw in Game One when the Painters came within 50-45 late in the second quarter, and 76-70 at the end of the third period.
“Generally, good teams like Rain or Shine will right themselves and get back to what they do well,” said Cone.
While RoS’ import Reggie Johnson played consistently as manifested by his 30 points and 13 rebounds, only James Yap and Ed Daquioag managed to finish in double figures with 15 and 10 points, respectively.
The rest of the Rain or Shine roster failed miserably from the floor, with Chris Tiu and Maverick Ahanmisi failing to produce solid games, and Raymond Almazan even going scoreless.