MANILA, Philippines – Barangay Ginebra import Justin Brownlee downplayed his role in limiting Star's Tony Mitchell in their Manila Clasico showdown on Sunday, instead crediting his teammates and the raucous Ginebra crowd.
Brownlee clearly and thoroughly outplayed Mitchell, scoring 30 points on top of 15 boards while leading Ginebra to a 113-98 victory. Yet afterward, he acknowledged that Mitchell was a genuinely tough match-up for him.
"Well, he's a tough guy, very physical. It wasn't just me, though. It was a collective group with the team," said Brownlee. "Coach Tim (Cone), he had a really good game plan for (Mitchell). So I don't think it was just me."
"I think it was a group effort with Coach Tim's game plan and the team, the way we played," he added.
Mitchell had been spectacular for Star in its 4-0 start to the PBA Commissioner's Cup, wowing fans with his highlight-reel dunks and blocked shots. He averaged 22 points and 15.5 rebounds per game in their first four assignments, while shooting 50.8% from the field.
Against the Gin Kings, Mitchell still got his fair share of highlight-reel plays. He threw down a couple of massive slam dunks in the fourth period, and still got 21 points and nine boards. But the former North Texas star shot only 9-of-21 from the field, and looked clearly frustrated in the final frame where he found himself matched up against Brownlee.
Not only did Brownlee repeatedly score on Mitchell, the Star import could not respond on the other end, as he missed several shots at the rim and was subjected to jeers from the Ginebra crowd when he missed two charities with 3:31 left. The lowest point came at the two-minute mark, when Brownlee easily drained a fadeaway jumper over him, to the delight of the Gin Kings' fans.
Brownlee believes that their supporters were the primary cause of Mitchell's frustration, more than anything that he tried to do to the opposing import inside the court.
"Yeah, he got a little frustrated," said Brownlee of Mitchell. "I don't think it was more so 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 nothing to do with me," he added, smiling.
Mitchell was quick to leave the Mall of Asia Arena after the loss, though Star teammate Paul Lee said their import was indeed frustrated.
"First time niya rin nakalaban ang Ginebra," said Lee. "Credit din sa depensa ng Ginebra."
"Pinaghirapan din talaga nila. Binigyan nila ng mahirap na game si Tony ngayon," he added.
[He's frustrated. This is his first time to play against Ginebra, and they played great defense on him. They made it tough for Tony today.]
More than outplaying Mitchell, Brownlee was more satisfied to have helped Ginebra claim a statement win against a tough opponent. He entered the conference as one of the smaller imports in the league, listed at 6-foot-7 while other teams played reinforcements who were 6-foot-8 or taller.
Yet the Gin Kings showed on Sunday that with Brownlee at the helm, they can take down a strong team like Star.
"I think this game definitely proved something to the league," said Brownlee. "I didn't hear too much, but I'm sure a lot of people questioned us, about me playing as a small import against the other bigger imports."
"I think this game was definitely a statement for us."
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.