Ginebra strikes into semis

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Cliff Hodge of Meralco dives to steal the ball from Scottie Thompson of Ginebra San Miguel during their Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals game yesterday at the Araneta Coliseum. ROMAN PROSPERO
VIA SWEEP OF MERALCO

Barangay Ginebra fended off rival Meralco, 104-90, to complete a 2-0 sweep of their best-of-three quarter-final series last night and book a return trip to the semi-finals of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

After leading by as many as 18 points, the Gin Kings nearly ran out of steam in the payoff period before resident import Justin Brownlee exploded with big numbers.

As the Bolts threatened to within six points, 81-87, in the 4:52 mark, the 30-year old import started Ginebra’s retaliation with an emphatic dunk over Chris Newsome, igniting their mammoth 15-4 finishing kick for a 102-86 lead with only a minute to left.

The Gin Kings just dribbled the clock en route to a dominating victory.

With the win, Barangay Ginebra asserted its mastery of Meralco, which it beat in the last two Governors’ Cup Finals.

After starting the conference at 1-5 (win-loss slate), Ginebra now holds a league-best seven-game win run entering the semi-finals against the winner of top-seed Rain or Shine and eight-ranked Globalport.

“That’s a hard win but we’re through to the semis and that’s good news. We will be able to sit and watch Rain or Shine play Globalport and start preparing after that” said head coach Tim Cone.

“Coming off a seven-game winning streak, it’s both a blessing and a curse. Yes, we have momentum entering the semis but we also know that we’ll eventually come down from the mountain,” Cone said.

Like in their 88-81 Game 1 win, Ginebra started slow anew before Brownlee nailed 24 points to give the Gin Kings a 56-51 lead.

The Gin Kings then opened the second half with a quick 15-5 run, on Jeff Chan’s transition lay-up, to build a comfortable 71-56 lead midway through the third quarter.

They held the driver’s seat from there for a 75-57 lead but got stuck at 87-72 as the Bolts launched nine unanswered points to close in to within 81-87 off Newsome’s trey.

Playing his fourth conference with Ginebra, Brownlee finished with 36 points, six rebounds, nine assists and three steals.

Greg Slaughter, injured during Ginebra’s semis exit in the last Commissioner’s Cup, was also instrumental with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds while LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar contributed 11 and 10 points, respectively.