JUSTIN Brownlee etched his name in Philippine basketball history on Wednesday night with one of the biggest shots in the PBA finals, hitting a three-pointer at the buzzer to lead Ginebra to a pulsating 91-88 win over Meralco and to its first league championship in eight years.
Brownlee hit Ginebra's last three baskets in a back-and-forth Game Six played before over 22,000 fans at the Smart Araneta Coliseum - none bigger than the trey he hit against Meralco import Allen Durham off a broken play in the game's final 5.5 seconds.
A loud roar erupted inside the Big Dome when Brownlee's shot from at least a step beyond the three-point arc split the net, signalling the end of eight years of waiting for Ginebra and its multitude of fans since the franchise's last championship in the 2008 Fiesta Cup.
"I designed a perfect play right there," joked Ginebra coach Tim Cone of the final play that put a fitting end to a memorable, fiercely fought best-of-seven series which the Gin Kings wrapped up in six games.
“What an ending,” Cone added in the post-game press conference. “Sometimes, players just overcome coaching and he (Brownlee) hit a great shot.”
Brownlee finished with a game-high 31 points, including 12 in the payoff period where he practically carried the Gin Kings on his back as they engaged the Bolts in a nip-and-tuck affair. He also hit a pair of jumpers off Cliff Hodge and Durham inside the final two minutes.
LA Tenorio added 25 points, six assists, and five boards to be named Press Corps-Cignal Finals MVP after averaging 17.2 points, 4.2 assists, 3.8 boards in the series.
The heroics capped off a comeback from 15 points down in the first half as the Gin Kings gained a morale boost from Robert Jaworski, who went inside the Ginebra dugout at the half to give a motivational talk.
In the end, the Gin Kings entrusted their fate in the hands of Brownlee, who didn’t disappoint as he hit the trey from the top of the key at the buzzer off a timeout.
Brownlee’s go-ahead basket was the first buzzer-beating shot that clinched a title since Chris Tan also buried a trey that won it for Sta. Lucia in the 2001 Governors’ Cup finals.
“This is a storybook series,” Cone said as he noted the contributions of the "Fast and Furious" tandem of Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand.
The Gin Kings survived a gallant effort from the Bolts, who were still ahead, 88-86, after Hodge hit two charities that were awarded after drawing a foul while on the break off his steal, before Brownlee retaliated with a tough fadeway jumper that kissed the glass to tie the game.
The Bolts had another chance to take the lead, but Allen Durham missed a reverse layup that set the stage for Brownlee’s final heroics.
“This championship is for you, guys,” Brownlee addressed the crowd. “Hopefully, we’ll win more in the future.”
GINEBRA 91 - Brownlee 31, Tenorio 25, Thompson 10, Aguilar 7, Caguioa 6, Helterbrand 5, Ellis 4, Marcelo 3, Cruz 0, Devance 0, Mercado 0.
MERALCO 88 - Newsome 19, Durham 15, Hugnatan 12, Alapag 8, Faundo 8, Uyloan 7, Amer 6, Hodge 6, Nabong 4, Caram 3.
Quarterscores: 18-27, 32-45, 65-66, 91-88