Batang Pier defiant as Kings surge


    GINEBRA wants to experience an exhilarating feeling all over again, one that starts from getting to a PBA Finals.

    “That’s our main goal for this conference. It’s been over a year since we’ve been in the finals. Coach was preaching that to us. Everybody wants to feel that, playing in the finals, having the opportunity to win a championship,” Kings import Justin Brownlee related.

    “Getting there just feels great,” added Brownlee. “We just want to feel that and, hopefully, we’ll have a greater feeling after the finals.”

    Brownlee and the rest of Ginebra could not be faulted for seemingly getting ahead of themselves.

    After all, there is still the matter of NorthPort which must be hurdled tonight for the perennial crowd favorites to wrap up their Governors Cup semifinals duel at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

    The Kings’ 132-105 win last Wednesday pushed the Kings ahead 2-1 in the best-of-five series and gave them two cracks at a seat in the race-to-four championship series that starts Jan. 8.

    But despite a second straight lopsided loss in the duel the Batang Pier remain defiant, having survived four previous do-or-die games before.

    “It’s knockout game again for us,” said NorthPort forward Sean Anthony. “We’ve already overcome four of those this conference so we’ll be focused, and we’ll be ready to go.”

    Indeed, NorthPort came out victor in two must-win games to end its elimination round campaign and advance into the playoffs against top seed NLEX. The eighth-seeded Batang Pier then upended the Road Warriors twice in the quarterfinals, including their do-or-die encounter that went into triple overtime, to arrange a semis duel with the Kings.

    Ginebra, however, is a different story, bouncing back from a 90-124 loss in the series opener with a 113-88 drubbing in Game 2.

    Those emphatic wins mean little for Ginebra coach Tim Cone. “I’ve said this a million times through the years in the playoffs: you don’t get pogi points for winning big,” he stated.

    “This still just goes down to a 2-1 lead,” added Cone. “On Friday it’s still a 50-50 game.”

    Still, moving just one win away from wrapping up the duel pleases Cone. “But it’s nice to get ahead in a series and to dictate it,” he said.

    “When you get ahead you could kind of dictate the series and that’s always the goal: get ahead in the series so you can dictate, force the other team to make adjustments.”

    There is also a big difference in the combatants’ lineup with everybody in Ginebra healthy and NorthPort reduced to a nine-man lineup after Kevin Ferrer and Sol Mercado joined Bradwyn Guinto, Jonathan Grey and Robert Bolick in the injury list.