From Ginebra on the rocks, now a sweet, sweet victory served on a Cone
Jayjay Helterbrand cuts to mark an end to the Ginebra drought. Jaime Campos

AFTER being on the rocks for the last eight years, Ginebra's return to championship form yesterday came via a Cone. Now who would have thought that gin served on a cone would make for the ideal mix.

Then again, not a few were puzzled by the seemingly nonchalant reaction of coach Tim Cone after Ginebra import Justin Brownlee nailed the buzzer-beating three that gave Ginebra a 91-88 win over Meralco and the 2016 Governor's Cup crown. Amid the storm surge of emotions in the arena after Brownlee's shot, Cone looked more relieved than ecstatic. There is a ready explanation for this, however: Cone was trapped in a Ginebranesque moment.

Cone is no stranger to winning titles, but it is a whole new experience when you author one for Ginebra. You are captured by the moment that is unlike no other. It is like being with your woman for so long a time and then suddenly you see her descending from the stairs wearing that beautiful dress and looking like an absolute Goddess; the moment leaves you speechless. Cone had that kind of feeling.

It is difficult to explain in one sentence what makes Ginebra special. To understand the team's unique attachment to the local hoop populace, you have to browse over the team's history. If Ginebra is a book, you cannot judge it by the cover; you have to peruse every page. By the time you reach the last chapter, you are already hooked, if not intoxicated. You will have also realized that the story of Ginebra reads like the story of the typical Filipino: the nobody who became somebody; the somebody who became a nobody again; and then the miraculous comebacks fuelled by sheer faith.

A sworn Crispa fanatic, this writer was quick to dismiss Ginebra as another expansion squad when it first arrived in the PBA as Gilbey's Gin in the late 1970s. The arrival of Toyota stalwart Robert Jaworski, however, totally altered the team's landscape. Jaworski did not just give Ginebra a leader, he infused it with character. Who can forget that game against Northern Consolidated Cement in the mid-1980s when Jaworski guided his team to a come-from-behind victory after having his busted lips stitched up at a nearby hospital? That set the tone for the Ginebra never-say-die persona.

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 By the mid-1980s, it was difficult to cushion Ginebra's burgeoning popularity, what with electrifying former Crispa import Billy Ray Bates joining forces with scoring machine Michael Hackett. This writer was already covering sports for Champ magazine and the truckload of Ginebra fan mails the magazine was receiving ate up ample office space.

The good times came to a screeching halt in the late 1990s when Jaworski bid the team adieu after a publicized rift with the new management. That was supposed to the final chapter in the Ginebra story, but another one was penned with new lead characters like Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand. Then again, while Jaworski left Ginebra in a hush, his game credo continued to be invoked by the new generation of players.

And such was the scenario in Game Six of Ginebra's title series with Meralco. On the crest of its first championship in eight years, Ginebra fans, via social media, called out the team's ageless leader before the game. Jaworski showed up and Ginebra responded with a fairy-tale like finish.

One can only imagine how Jaworski reacted after Brownlee nailed the title-winning trey, but the popular belief is that like Cone, the Big J also found himself wrapped in a moment that can only be described as Ginebranesque

Follow the writer on Twitter: @edtolentino