By Ignacius Carell Cruz

The image of the PBA was pushed to the brink of humiliation at the hands of a guest team who conquered every team with the best players the country could offer.

But just like old times, with millions of Filipinos betting on the game they love, the Gin Kings were there to defend the throne.

Photo Courtesy of PBA

In front of a record-breaking 54,589 crowd inside Philippine Arena, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel slayed the Bay Area Dragons, 114-99, behind newly-naturalized Filipino and six-time champion Justin Brownlee's 34 points and 12 assists, Sunday.

“We were angry about Game Six. We did not want it to go to a Game Seven. We made a nice comeback, felt that we had it in our hands, but we let it slip away. I think that anger spilled over to Game Seven since everyone was locked in from the very first minute and basket,” Ginebra Coach Tim Cone said, who praised the total effort displayed by his team in the championship clincher.

"We came out a little angry and I do know that the energy from the crowd boosted us to levels I do not think we could get to against this team,” said Cone who was immensely grateful to the fifty thousand diehard supporters who powered the team every step of the way.

Ginebra’s Jamie Malonzo saved his best performance in the do-or-die game by dropping 22 markers and 17 boards. Reigning MVP Scottie Thompson added 18 points, nine rebounds, and six steals to cap off one of the best Game Seven performances in recent memory and secure the 15th crown for the Gin Kings.

On the other hand, Bay Area’s Myles Powell showcased his NBA-caliber talent built on 29 points, while Hayden Blankley chipped in 25 markers. Sadly, it was not enough to put out the fire in the inspired Ginebra squad, who caused an abysmal 26% shots from downtown on the three-point-reliant Dragons.

The Three-Time Best Import of the Conference, Brownlee, started the game on fire scoring 15 of his 34 in the opening frame to give the Gin Kings a six-point lead, 27-21.

Things immediately went south for the Dragons in the second frame where they were outscored by 16 points as Ginebra opened its floodgates by hitting six triples, culminated by a thunderous and buzzer-beating Japeth Aguilar putback slam to give Barangay Ginebra a 22-point cushion into the break, 61-39.

The Dragons' three-point bombs continued to miss the target as Ginebra established the largest lead of the game in the third frame, 75-47, via a spectacular steal-turned-layup for Malonzo.

Bay Area was able at least weather the storm before the conclusion of the third quarter led by Powell who tried his best to get as many fouls as possible from his defenders and knockdown crucial free throws to cut down the lead, 95-74.

The celebrations in the payoff period were halted momentarily as the Dragons attempted a monumental comeback to cut down the lead to 13, with less than four minutes to play. However, fatigue started slowing down the Dragons down the stretch. 

Finals MVP Christian Standhardinger knocked down a patented jumper while Thompson drained a floater over the outstretched arms of the 7’5” giant Liu Chuanxing–an icing on the cake for a masterful performance on the part of Ginebra.

“When I got traded, I had a dream of all this happening. Tonight, it is happening and so it is a great feeling. We got a special squad, and it took a special squad to do this and beat a team like that so I am just trying to embrace the moment,” claimed Malonzo who was evidently speechless and overwhelmed by his first championship.

This is Barangay Ginebra’s 7th title with Cone at the helm and 2nd Commissioner’s Cup which tells a lot about the dominance of the Gin Kings in the import-laden conferences, especially with a once-in-a-generation player Brownlee leading the charge.

Meanwhile, Bay Area Coach Brian Goorjian’s side was obviously shellshocked by the record-breaking crowd as they shot airballs and failed to knock down charities where they went for a disgraceful 14/29.

Despite the agonizing ending to an outstanding campaign, Bay Area’s head tactician was quick to point out his key takeaways from being a guest team in the PBA and his plans moving forward.

“The whole reason why I left Australia because I believe that you need international competition, the Philippines and the whole region. Their players are gonna become better, our players are gonna become better, and the region will become better," said Goorjian. 

"These guys never experienced a team like Ginebra. There is physicality, toughness, and emotion that they have never experienced before and they will grow from this.”

Edited by Diana Mae Salonoy