QUESTIONS on whether or not Barangay Ginebra can win with a relatively short import in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup were answered on Sunday when the Gin Kings took down their first elite opponent in Star, 113- 98.
In a midseason conference that allows an import allowance of 6’10”, the Gin Kings chose familiarity over size as they tapped the services of Justin Brownlee, who has now led his team to a second straight win,
The 6-foot-5 Brownlee did it all against the Hotshots, pouring in 30 points to go with 15 boards, six assists, four blocks, and two steals without committing a single turnover in 40 minutes as he was eager to send a message to the rest of the field.
“Yeah, I think this game definitely proved something to the league,” Brownlee admitted. “I'm sure a lot of people question – I didn't hear too much, but I'm sure a lot of people questioned us about playing me as a small import against the other bigger imports.”
“So I think this game was definitely a statement for us and we're definitely gonna use the momentum from it,” he added.
Brownlee did miss all his seven three-point attempts, but he made 11 of his 16 shots from within the arc and had a 8-of-10 clip from the charity stripe as he pounced on several mismatches against smaller defenders and bigger, yet slower foes.
“Justin causes a lot of problems with people,” Gin Kings coach Tim Cone said. “He can play in and out, handle the ball, make great passes, he's a good defender. And he's kind of playing the way we envisioned him to play when we brought him in.”
“But we still need all the production especially for Japeth (Aguilar) and Joe (Devance), especially because they're gonna be the bigs and they're gonna be helping out, and of course, our guards,” he was quick to add.
Even with Aguilar and Devance posting sub-par numbers, Brownlee doing everything was enough on this night when he outshone Hotshots counterpart Tony Mitchell, who tallied 21 points on 9-of-21 shooting and nine boards in 38 minutes.
Brownlee feels they had plenty of help from the Ginebra fans in limiting Mitchell.
“Yeah, he got a little frustrated,” Brownlee said. “I don't think it’s more of me, but maybe the fans. We have great fans who support us and they do a really good job of taunting the opponent. I think it was all the fans, that didn't have anything to do with me.”