MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) Justin Brownlee took over down the stretch to power the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings to an impressive 113-98 victory over the erstwhile unbeaten Star Hotshots in the 2017 PBA Commissioner's Cup on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
In the first Manila Clasico of the season, Brownlee – playing as undersized import – thoroughly outplayed his Star counterpart, Tony Mitchell, and finished with 30 points to go along with 15 rebounds and six assists in the victory.
Brownlee scored 11 of Ginebra's last 19 points, with LA Tenorio accounting for the other eight, as the Gin Kings simply clamped down on the Hotshots in the final six minutes of the game to take control completely.
"It was a real up and down game, a game of runs, which is what you expect from a Manila Clasico," said Ginebra coach Tim Cone afterwards. "I told the team at halftime that we were playing good basketball, but they were playing better, and we needed to lift our game in the second half."
The Hotshots took a slim 53-51 lead into the halftime break, and even led by as much as 12 points, 67-55, in the third frame. But Scottie Thompson provided Ginebra with a massive boost of energy in the third quarter, and Star had no one to match his energy especially in transition.
Thompson forced at least three turnovers, and assisted on three Ginebra buckets during a stunning 18-2 run that turned the 12-point deficit into a 73-69 advantage. After Rodney Brondial scored to make it a one-possession game, 71-73, Kevin Ferrer knocked down a three-pointer, and Chris Ellis scored a lay-up to push the Gin Kings ahead by seven, 78-71.
Star threatened early in the fourth frame, as they scored five quick points to cut Ginebra's lead to two, 80-82. Off a timeout, however, Sol Mercado made sure that the Gin Kings would respond well, as he scored eight consecutive points, including back-to-back three-pointers, to give his team a double-digit advantage, 90-80.
After a lay-up by Mitchell made it a five-point game, 89-94, with still 7:10 left, Brownlee took over, beginning with an and-1 play for a 97-89 advantage. He capped his heroics by lofting a fade away jumper over an increasingly frustrated Mitchell with two minutes left to put Ginebra on top, 108-96.
"Justin causes a lot of problems for people," said Cone. "He can play in and out, handle the ball, make passes, and he's a good defender. He's playing the way we envisioned him to play when we brought him in."
Tenorio put the finishing touches on the victory with a reverse, no-look lay-up that draw oohs-and-aahs from the MOA Arena crowd, and a triple that pegged the final scorer.
For Cone, it was a crucial victory for their team as they had gambled in bringing in Brownlee, the hero of their run to the Governors' Cup title last year, who would nevertheless be undersized compared to most of the other team's imports.
"It's satisfying to beat a quality, elite team like Star has become," he said. "Even though we're playing with a small import, it sends a good message to us and the players that it can be done, that we can compete in this conference with Justin."
Brownlee scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half, and made 11 of his 23 attempts from the field. Tenorio added 21 markers, Mercado finished with 15 points and seven assists, and Thompson tallied eight points, seven boards, and four dimes.
The Gin Kings made 56% of their attempts in the game, while registering 32 assists on 45 made field goals.
Mitchell got his numbers – 21 points, nine rebounds – but he made only nine of 21 field goals and bricked all three of the triples that he took. Allein Maliksi torched Ginebra for 14 points in the first half, but made only three more the rest of the way.
As a team, Star shot a paltry 38% from the field.
GINEBRA 113 - Brownlee 33, Tenorio 21, Mercado 15, Aguilar 12, Thompson 8, Ferrer 8, Devance 7, Caguioa 6, Ellis 4, Marcelo 2.
STAR 98 - Mitchell 22, Maliksi 17, Lee 11, Jalalon 10, Barroca 9, Ramos 7, Brondial 7, Mendoza 6, Simon 5, Reavis 4, Sangalang 0.
Quarterscores: 26-24, 51-53, 82-75, 113-98
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