WHEN Ginebra topped Meralco in their first PBA Governors Cup finals meeting, Kings import Justin Brownlee provided the series-winner through a last-second three-pointer that was billed as “The Shot.”
Ginebra now has “The Block” to thank after gaining the headstart last Tuesday in their best-of-seven championship duel in the same tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Japeth Aguilar capped a fine all-around performance by producing the game’s biggest play, foiling Meralco import Allen Durham’s bid for an equalizer through a drive in the last 11 seconds.
That block preserved the Kings’ 89-87 lead and Brownlee put the icing on his own splendid game and the win with two free throws that pegged the final count.
“Alam namin na mag-te-take over na si Durham, seconds na lang,” related Aguilar, who wound up with 16 points, six rebounds and three swats in all, moving him past Ricky Relosa for 15th in the league’s all-time list of most blocks.
“Nakita ko nasa kanya na ‘yung bola. Nakita ko attack strong na siya. So nag-focus na ako sa kanya,” added Aguilar. “Fortunately, nakuha ko ‘yung block.”
That performance was the top local backup for Brownlee, who finished with game-highs of 38 points and 16 rebounds.
It was Aguilar’s game-saving play that led Ginebra coach Tim Cone to gush all night long.
“That was really spectacular, that block of his,” enthused Cone. “One-on-one against Durham (who was going) full steam ahead and getting a hand on that shot. It was really a tremendous play.”
Obviously, Durham had a different take on that play. “In my opinion, I thought that was a foul,” he said.
“The video (replay) made it look like a foul. I mean, he was all over my shoulder,” added Durham. “I guess the refs say he got more ball than body,” he added. “So you just got to bounce back from that.”
Durham, who finished with a triple-double of 25 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists, also said it shouldn’t have boiled down to that play if only he and his teammates found the bottom of the net more often than they did.
Durham shot 10-for-26 from the field in pacing a Bolts side that made just 33 of 86 field goal tries overall.
“Personally, I got to shoot better,” noted Durham. “I didn’t perform to the best of my ability. So I got to be better the next game. Our shots weren’t falling…. and if a couple of those shots fall, that could kind of loosen up their defense a little bit.”
Meralco coach Norman Black wholeheartedly agreed. “Ginebra does a good job of clogging the paint defensively,” he pointed out.
“They want you to shoot from the outside. Normally, we do a very good job of shooting at the high percentage. But today, we did not,” added Black.
“I thought that hurt us a great deal. Even if we had some open looks, we just couldn’t make it.”
The Bolts made just seven of their 32 shots from deep with Baser Amer and Bong Quinto struggling from beyond the arc and Allein Maliksi missing all five of his 3-point attempts, ultimately costing Meralco a game in which it even led 61-51 in the third quarter.
“Baser was 2-for-10, Maliksi was 0-for 5, and Bong Quinto was 1-for-5. Those are pretty much my best shooters, percentage-wise. So the fact that they couldn’t make shots hurt us,” said Black.
The narrow escape only tended to reinforce Con’s belief the series should be a long, drawn-out affair.
“It really just came down to each possession. You blow one possession, you blow the game,” said Cone. “I honestly feel that… every game it will be a grind-out fight to the end.”
Durham sure hopes so, his confidence bolstered by the fact his side almost pulled it off in the end.
“Even with the way we shot and with some of the missed plays that we should have made, we still had a chance to win at the end,” said the two-time Best Import awardee.
“When we have that opportunity, we’ve got to take it. We’ve got to be able to put way that kind of game, especially against a team like this.”