MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Barangay Ginebra banked on a strong start to bury the San Miguel Beermen, 117-92, during the do-or-die semifinals game 5 and clinched the last Finals ticket in the 2016 PBA Governors' Cup on Tuesday, October 4 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Gin Kings made it back to the PBA Finals for the first time in 3 years or since the 2013 Commissioner's Cup, when they were swept by the Alaska Aces. This is their 21st Finals appearance in franchise history.
Ginebra last won a title in the 2008 Fiesta Conference.
"I'm still a little bit in shock," admitted head coach Tim Cone, a two-time Grand Slam coach who took over Ginebra before this season. "I had a lot of prepared speeches to the locker room, coming in here (press room), talking about how proud I was of the guys even though we lost and everything.
"I had all my losing speeches ready, I didn't have any winning speeches ready."
Justin Brownlee had a game-high 26 points with 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, and a block.
Rookie Scottie Thompson more than made up for his scoreless game 4 showing with a career-high 24 points, 15 rebounds, including 5 on the offensive glass, plus 3 assists, a steal, and a block. The former Perpetual Help star had only 3 turnovers as he played more than 38 minutes.
Thompson out-rebounded the entire Ginebra and San Miguel teams, including 6-foot-10 big man June Mar Fajardo. He also shot 4-of-7 from long range.
"He has that nose for the ball," Cone tried to explain how the 6-foot Thompson is able to get so many rebounds. "It's a common expression but really very few people have it."
Rebounds weren't a problem when it came to Thompson, but coming into game 5, Cone was more worried about his scoring.
"We were concerned about Scottie, he's so incredibly unselfish that you have to force him to shoot," Cone explained how he woke up Thompson for game 5.
"So first play of the game we designed a play for him to come out and take that first shot. Bahala na (It doesn't matter). Whatever it was, I don't care. You shoot it. I don't care if you miss you just shoot it. He went out and took that shot, and he missed it, and we were like uh-oh, but then he just got on fire.
"I think he took 5 of our first 6 shots and that said to me, yes the message was sent to Scottie. I think we have a shot in this game. Because if he's going to play like that we have a shot. And it kind of just became contagious."
Sol Mercado also broke out of his scoreless funk with 22 points on 5-of-8 3-point shooting on top of 6 assists and a steal.
LA Tenorio had 18 markers, 10 dimes, and 6 boards while shooting 7-of-13 from the field with 4 triples. Aljon Mariano chipped in 11 markers as he scored several times on wide open layups in the fourth quarter.
"An incredible effort," Cone said. "We talked mostly about coming out and being aggressive. We were very passive in game 4, we were pretty much passive the whole series in terms of looking for and taking our shots."
Ginebra raced off to a 33-12 opening quarter lead but, similar to game 4, fell silent in the second quarter and allowed San Miguel a blistering 24-0 run to pull to within 38-45 at the break.
That run went down as the third all-time record for the biggest unanswered run, per PBA statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
But this time, Ginebra refused to be shackled and recovered from it nicely in the third quarter, re-establishing double-digit leads once again to carry a comfortable 81-53 cushion entering the final frame.
The Gin Kings were able to pull off the huge victory before a raucous crowd of 20,374 following a lopsided defeat to the Beermen in game 4.
"It's nice because it was a such a redemptive win, we got redemption from the last one," Cone noted. "We were really embarrassed in game 4."
"When we got blown out and we came back in game 5 we said bahala na (whatever happens), just shoot it. Be aggressive. If we lose, we lose. If we win, we win. But shoot the ball," Cone shared.
Cone steers Ginebra to the Finals in just his third conference as head coach of the league's most popular ballclub.
Arwind Santos topscored for the Beermen with 24 points as Elijah Millsap finished with 18 points, 14 of which came too late in the payoff period.
Lassiter and Cabagnot had 11 and 10 points, respectively, as Fajardo settled for just 7 points and 12 boards.
Fajardo, who was being guarded by the much smaller Brownlee, attempted just one field goal in his nearly 36 minutes on the floor.
Ginebra will face Meralco in a best-of-7 Finals affair beginning Friday.
Ginebra (117): Brownlee 26, Thompson 24, Mercado 22, Tenorio 18, Mariano 11, Devance 6, Aguilar 5, Caguioa 2, Helterbrand 2, Marcelo 1, Cruz 0, Villamor 0.
SAN MIGUEL 92)L Santos 24, Millsap 18, Lassiter 11, Cabagnot 10, Heruela 9, David 7, Fajardo 7, Reyes 3, Ross 3, Arana 0, De Ocampo 0, Espinas 0, Semerad 0, Tubid 0.
Quarterscores: 33-12, 45-38, 81-53, 117-92