IT was a long and winding journey, but when the destination was finally reached, Barangay Ginebra couldn’t be more satisfied.
The eight-year odyssey finally came to a halt for the league’s most popular team as it found its way back to glory by winning the 2016 Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup in scintillating fashion.
In one of the best championship showdowns in league history, the Gin Kings emerged on top, besting Meralco, 4-2, in their best-of-seven finals series.
Ginebra won the last three games on the heroics of prolific import Justin Brownlee as his unforgettable buzzer-beater triple in Game 6 Wednesday night gave the crowd darlings the victory, 91-88, and the crown.
The Gin Kings did it in front of 22,528 fans at the jampacked Araneta Coliseum, in the presence of the father of the never-say-die mantra, living legend Robert Jaworski.
“What can I say, we did it,” said first-year coach Tim Cone, who gave Ginebra its ninth franchise title and also earned his 19th overall as a coach, the best in league history. “It’s been really a tough road for us to get here, but the team really wanted this championship so badly. We wanted to win it for Mark [Caguioa]and Jayjay [Helterbrand]. What an ending. It was pretty much a storybook series.”
In typical Ginebra fashion, it first faced adversity, trailing by 13 points at the half, 32-45, following a sluggish start, before rising to the occasion and making sure that its already lengthy drought will no longer be prolonged.
It took an inspiring halftime pep talk from Jaworski in the dugout and a stunning second half turnaround led by Brownlee and finals Most Valuable Player, LA Tenorio.
“Senator Sonny [Jaworski] came to the dugout at halftime and inspired us. He fired up the boys and told them they were tight and they need to loosen up and that started everything. It was a big boost for us,” said Cone of the monumental happenings in the historic Game 6.
Throughout the series, Ginebra also needed to lean on the leadership and contributions of Caguioa and Helterbrand, the faces of the team for more than a decade and counting, to uplift it in desperate times.
“Wala nang kangkungan,” proudly said Caguioa, pertaining to the term used every time the Gin Kings bow out the last few years and fail to go all the way. “We’re really happy. We wanted this championship and we’ve been chasing it for the last eight years and we finally got it.”
Aside from this trying finale against the Bolts and its grueling semifinals series against San Miguel, Ginebra downed more challenges along the way.
It first dealt with the injury of original import choice Paul Harris in the team’s first game of the tournament, but that turned out as a blessing in disguise as Brownlee was tapped and he was what the doctor ordered for the team.
Ginebra also lost star center Greg Slaughter to a torn ACL midway in the tournament and disposed of pesky Alaska in the quarterfinals before breaking through in the last two rounds to quench its championship thirst.
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