By Jonas Terrado
(Mall of Asia Arena)
7 p.m. — Ginebra vs Meralco
(Ginebra leads series 3-1)
Justin Brownlee fired 27 points to put Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on the cusp of capturing the PBA Governors’ Cup crown with a 94-72 win over Meralco Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Denied of a Best Import award prior to the start of Game 4, Brownlee responded by scoring 15 in the second quarter that saw the Kings pull away and take a 42-31 lead at the break.
Brownlee continued his onslaught in the second half with help from Stanley Pringle as Ginebra put a stranglehold on the best-of-seven series by taking a 3-1 lead in front of 11,496 fans.
The win puts Ginebra in a position to close it out on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena and clinch a fourth title under coach Tim Cone.
“We were very methodical out there,” said Cone.
Brownlee shot 12-of-26 with eight rebounds, eight assists, five steals and four blocks while Pringle made a strong case to challenge Japeth Aguilar for the Finals Most Valuable Player award by registering 21 points and seven rebounds.
Scottie Thompson added 16 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals for his most productive game of the series.
Only Ginebra’s predecessor’s from the 1991 First Conference have ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven championship series, making Meralco’s title bid even tougher.
Not even the appearance of center Raymond Almazan could galvanize the Bolts.
Almazan surprised everyone by being inserted into the starting lineup, a day after being diagnosed with a lateral meniscal tear on his left knee.
He posted 12 points and nine rebounds in nearly 28 minutes but Almazan was at times trying to fight off pain.
Worse, the Bolts suffered into a horrendous shooting clip from rainbow country, missing 23 of 26 attempts that left Bolts coach Norman Black disappointed.
Allen Durham, who beat Brownlee anew for a third Best Import plum, had 21 points on 9-of-23 shooting but was once again forced to earn for his numbers.
He added 27 rebounds and seven assists but turned the ball over six times as Cone praised his team for its collective effort on the defensive end.
GINEBRA 94 — Brownlee 27, Pringle 21, Thompson 16, Tenorio 8, Dillinger 7, Aguilar 5, Caguioa 5, Mariano 3, Slaughter 2, Caperal 0, Chan 0, Dela Cruz 0.
MERALCO 72 — Durham 21, Newsome 12, Almazan 12, Quinto 7, Salva 6, Maliksi 6, Caram 4, Amer 2, Hodge 2, Faundo 0, Jackson 0, Pinto 0.
Quarters: 14-14; 42-31; 70-55; 94-72.