Sol Mercado, Justin Brownlee spark Ginebra comeback against SMB in Game One
Import Justin Brownlee scored 39 points to pace Ginebra. Jaime Campos

THE real Barangay Ginebra showed up in the second half as it frustrated San Miguel Beer, 115-108, to take the early lead in their PBA Governors’ Cup semifinal series on Monday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The Gin Kings shrugged off an early 13-point deficit, coming alive in third quarter and sustaining the momentum in the payoff period to take Game One of the best-of-five series.

Sol Mercado and Japeth Aguilar sparked the turnaround before Justin Brownlee took over in the final frame and finished with a conference-high 39 points for the Gin Kings, who won despite a scoreless stint from star guard LA Tenorio after dropping 32 points in their quarterfinal win over Alaska.

“It looked like we were totally overmatched in the first half. We didn’t deserve to be out there on the same floor, it was quite frustrating,” Gin Kings coach Tim Cone said. “But the guys raised their level of play in many ways and suddenly they started gaining some confidence.”

Game Two is on Wednesday also at the Big Dome.

It seemed the Beermen hit anything they threw up early on as they established a 39-26 cushion at the start of the second quarter as June Mar Fajardo proved unstoppable down low.

But the Gin Kings launched a familiar comeback in the third quarter, where Brownlee, Aguilar, and Mercado combined for 27 of the Gin Kings’ 33 points to outscore the Beermen by 14 points to turn the game around.

Aguilar finished with 22 points and seven boards while Mercado added 19 markers after going scoreless in the first period, on top of dishing out five assists, three boards, and one steal in 36 minutes off the bench.  

Scottie Thompson also came through with his unique playmaking, putting up 11 points, 10 boards, and six assists, mostly to Mark Caguioa, who scored all his eight points in the fourth.

Joe Devance was the other Ginebra player to score in double figures, but his intangible contributions drew him praise from Cone at the post-game conference.

The result spoiled the all-around effort of Elijah Millsap, who registered a triple-double of 29 points, 14 boards, and 11 assists as the SMB import tried to lead his team in preserving the result to no avail.

Fajardo added 25 points and 15 boards, while Alex Cabagnot chipped in 20 points, five assists, and four rebounds as he sparked a late SMB stand that fell short.

The scores:

Ginebra 115 –Brownlee 39, Aguilar 22, Mercado 19, Devance 12, Thompson 11, Caguioa 8, Mariano 4, Marcelo 0, Tenorio 0, Cruz 0


SMB 108 - Millsap 29, Fajardo 25, Cabagnot 20, Santos 15, Lassiter 14, Tubid 3, Espinas 2, Ross 0

Quarterscores: 24-36, 46-57, 79-76, 115-108

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