BARANGAY Ginebra proved true to its word, putting up a performance to remember as it overwhelmed San Miguel Beer, 117-92, on Tuesday night to move closer to rewarding its legions of fans a PBA championship they have long yearned for.
The Gin Kings zoomed to a blistering start, withstood one of the biggest runs by the Beermen, then built another cushion they didn’t relinquish anymore as they were left standing in their Governors’ Cup semifinal series sudden death in front over 20,000 fans at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Scottie Thompson rose to the occasion as the rookie playmaker bounced back from a scoreless outing with a career-high 25 points, on top of 15 boards, and five assists to lead the Gin Kings, who also drew splendid showings from LA Tenorio, Sol Mercado, and import Justin Bronwlee.
“The message was sent by Scottie,” Gin Kings coach Tim Cone said. “If he was going to play like that, we were going to have a chance. And he was contagious.”
“It’s such a redemptive win,” the champion coach, looking back on their 29-point loss to the Beermen in Game Four. “We were really embarrassed in Game Four, but this was redemption.”
The Gin Kings thus returned to the finals for the first time in three years, arranging a best-of-seven championship showdown against Meralco starting with Game One on Friday night also at the Big Dome.
The Beermen failed to take advantage of their biggest asset anew as June Mar Fajardo was held to just seven points, all from the foul, in 35 minutes.
The Gin Kings went hot off the gates, establishing a 37-12 lead early in the second quarter behind Thompson, who, usually a facilitator and coming off a triple-double performance two games back, turned more aggressive on offense this time.
The Beermen, though, came back as quickly as they fell behind as they went on a 24-0 salvo, the third-longest unanswered run in league history, to pull to within a point after leaving the Gin Kings scoreless for over eight minutes.
It was only a Brownlee three-pointer the right corner that stopped the bleeding in the two-minute, 58-second mark and got the Gin Kings back on track.
“That kind of settled us down,” Cone said as his team regained a seven-point halftime lead before pulling away anew in the third quarter where they outscored the Beermen, 36-15.
Arwind Santos was one of the few bright spots for the Beermen with 24 points built around four triples as import Elijah Millsap added 18 markers, although 14 of his output came in the fourth quarter where the outcome had already been sealed.
Ginebra 117 – Brownlee 26, Thompson 24, Mercado 22, Tenorio 18, Mariano 11, Devance 6, Aguilar 5, Caguioa 2, Helterbrand 2, Marcelo 1, Cruz 0, Villamor 0
SMB 92 – Santos 24, Millsap 18, Lassiter 11, Cabagnot 10, Heruela 9, David 7, Fajardo 7, Reyes 3, Ross 3, Arana 0, De Ocampo 0, Espinas 0, Semerad 0, Tubid 0
Quarterscores: 33-12, 45-38, 81-53, 117-92