PBA Finals: Ginebra draws first blood, overpowers Meralco 102 - 87


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MANILA, Philippines - For Meralco Bolts, Friday the 13th is really a bad luck as they lost Game 1 of the 2017 Governors’ Cup Finals to the defending champions Barangay Ginebra, 102 - 87 at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City on October 13.

Justin Brownlee Ginebra
Justin Brownlee leads with 32 points, 19 rebounds and 6 assists to seal game 1. Photo Credit: Inquirer.net
It was a year ago since Ginebra and Meralco squared off at the 2016 Governors’ Cup finals where Barangay ended its title drought after 8 long years. Tonight, same squads opened the new chapter of their rivalry book. The question now is, will “love be sweeter the second time around” for Ginebra or will it be “revenge is sweeter” for Meralco?

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Very rare that PBA goes out of town during the championship games. But for the opener, Lucena City hosted Ginebra and Meralco. In terms of crowd support, Ginebra has this humongous advantage.

Truly, the Gilas Pilipinas stint helped Baser Amer in terms of skills and basketball IQ and it manifested right after the couple of international tournaments where he played a major role together with the rest of the cadets. The Meralco guard, didn’t mind the Ginebra crowd but rather, silenced the Barangay in the early phase of the game while Ginebra bigs Japeth Aguilar and Joe Devance provided the spark for their team.

Height is might and speed kills. This was the story of the 1st quarter where Barangay dominated the Bolts. The towering presence of Greg Slaughter and the agility of Justin Brownlee placed Ginebra 11 points ahead of Meralco, 29 - 18 after the first 12 minutes of the game.

The height discrepancy obviously hurt Meralco. The absence of Kelly Nabong due to suspension made it harder for the Bolts to contain the “Gregzilla” especially in 2nd chance opportunities. Allen Durham who originally plays the 3 and 4 position was forced to move to the center to defend the middle ground against Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar.

As the 2nd quarter buzzer sounded, Meralco Bolts found themselves downed by 14 points, 49 - 35. Both imports led all scorers. Justin Brownlee had 13 while his counterpart, Allen Durham banked 10.

Meralco started the 2nd half hot with Durham and Amer’s back-to-back baskets that forced Coach Tim Cone to call a halt with less than a minute gone by. LA Tenorio however, was too quick to retaliate as he stepped on the gas pedal for 4 points.

Midway of the third, Allen Durham slowed down from scoring. Good thing, Meralco locals stepped-up and managed to cut the Ginebra lead to just a single digit. Cliff Hodge and Garvo Lanete led the offensive assault for the Bolts.

Allen Durham came back to life at the 2-minute mark of the quarter with an alley-oop two-handed jam from Mike Tolomia and brought the margin down to 6.

Mike Tolomia rang the bell from the outside and one after getting clipped by Sol Mercado. With the rare 4-point play, Meralco chipped the lead to just 4 but Greg Slaughter made a dunk and brought their advantage back to 6, 77-71 heading onto the final canto.

Meralco’s offensive onslaught in the penultimate quarter was promptly stopped by Ginebra at the start of the fourth. Barangay added 5 more points to increase its lead to 11 with 10 more minutes in the game.

Despite Ginebra’s hefty advantage, the players kept their pace quick that left the Bolts flat-footed. Barangay’s lead ballooned to 18 with 4 more minutes remaining in the game clock.

Coach Tim Cone showed mercy on Coach Norman Black by pulling out his gunners and sent his 3rd stringers to the floor. The final horn echoed in the Quezon Convention Center and Ginebra officially took game number 1, 102-87 with Justin Brownlee topping all protagonists with 32 markers, 19 boards and 6 dimes.

Game 2 will be on Sunday, October 15 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum at 6:30pm to be aired live on ESPN 5.

-- Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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