MANILA (UPDATED) - Barangay Ginebra opened the long-delayed defense of its PBA Governors' Cup title with a hard-earned 80-77 triumph over the Alaska Aces, Sunday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
The Gin Kings won the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup, the last conference to feature imports before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The league played back-to-back All-Filipino conferences before getting the go-signal to play an import conference from the Philippine government.
It was a come-from-behind win from the Gin Kings, who trailed by four points with three minutes to go but outplayed the Aces down the stretch.
Justin Brownlee, back for another tour of duty with Ginebra, put up 28 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in a typically well-rounded performance, while Stanley Pringle bucked a poor shooting night by drilling the go-ahead basket. He finished with seven points on 3-of-10 shooting.
"Stanley had a really big basket towards the end, and we got a couple of key stops and loose ball recoveries, and I thought that was the difference," Ginebra coach Tim Cone said.
"We were playing uphill the whole game, we were playing from behind pretty much the whole game, but never got to a big lead. But it felt like we were playing from behind the whole game," he noted.
A clutch jumper by Maverick Ahanmisi gave Alaska a 73-69 lead with just over three minutes left, after which both teams endured several empty possessions until Pringle nailed a jump shot that made it a two-point game with 1:46 to go, 73-71.
"That gave us a little bit of confidence that we can maybe win this game," Cone said of Pringle's big bucket.
Brownlee knotted the count with his own floater, and the import then forced a turnover from Alaska that led to Pringle firing the go-ahead jump shot with 40 seconds left for a 75-73 Ginebra advantage.
The Aces still had a chance but import Olu Ashaolu bricked two charities with 23 seconds left, and Brownlee was able to secure possession. The Aces were forced to foul LA Tenorio, who made two free throws for a 73-77 lead with 13 seconds to go.
Alaska remained in the hunt after Robbie Herndon quickly scored off a timeout, and Tenorio left the door open for the Aces when he missed the second of two free throws off a duty foul by Herndon.
But Alaska shot itself in the foot as Maverick Ahanmisi fired a bad pass to Herndon, who fell out of bounds while still trying to control the possession. The ball went back to Ginebra, and Brownlee made two charities to peg the final score.
"It was a pretty good way to start off the conference for us," said Brownlee, who earned Player of the Game honors. "We played okay, but definitely could've played better. But it's a good game to get started and try to get some momentum into this conference."
Alaska suffered its first loss after a 2-0 start to the Governors' Cup.
Ashaolu led the Aces with 19 points and 18 rebounds, but the import was frustrated all game long by Ginebra's Christian Standhardinger. Herndon finished with 12 points, while AHanmisi and Jeron Teng each scored 10.
The Aces shot just 35% from the field, however, and their 20 turnovers led to 18 points for Barangay Ginebra.
GINEBRA 80 – Brownlee 28, J. Aguilar 11, Thompson 9, Standhardinger 8, Pringle 7, Tenorio 6, Tolentino 5, Salado 2, Caperal 2, Onwubere 2, Chan 0
ALASKA 77 – Ashaolu 19, Herndon 12, Teng 10, Ahanmisi 10, Taha 9, Brondial 4, Tratter 3, Adamos 3, Racal 3, DiGregorio 2, Brondial 2, Tolomia 2, Stockton 0
QUARTERS: 14-18, 34-28, 56-59, 80-77