MANILA, Philippines - Barangay Ginebra continues to be the hurdle that San Miguel Beer just cannot overcome in its quest for a Grand Slam.
The Beermen's bid for a third PBA crown this season ended on Sunday, when the Gin Kings held on for a 100-97 triumph in their quarterfinal game in the 2019 Governors' Cup.
It must have felt like deja vu for the Beermen: in the 2017 edition of the conference, Ginebra also halted their Grand Slam bid in excruciating fashion. The Gin Kings, seeded third that year, crushed them 104-84 in the quarterfinals.
The Gin Kings made it clear that ending the Beermen's Grand Slam aspirations was not on their minds heading into the game.
"Well, you know, they're just in front of us. We didn't talk about that. We didn't go into the locker room and say, 'Hey, we gotta end San Miguel's Grand Slam.' That wasn't really a motivation for us," Ginebra coach Tim Cone said after the game.
"A motivation for us was that San Miguel is a great team, and in front of us, and we had to get through them, and that was our motivation," he added.
More than stopping San Miguel's bid to make history, Cone was more concerned with just taking care of business. The Gin Kings were armed with a twice-to-beat edge against the Beermen, but he did not want to figure in a do-or-die game against a team that had already won two titles this year.
For a while, it seemed as though that was going to be the case as San Miguel held on to a slim lead in the closing minutes.
Fortunately for Ginebra, Justin Brownlee bailed them out with a big three-pointer, and a mistake by Chris Ross led to a transition layup by Stanley Pringle.
That put Ginebra up 98-95 heading into the final two minutes, and the Beermen never recovered.
"We certainly didn't want to play a second game against a team like that, in a knockout game," said Cone. "So, winning this first game was a huge goal for us. Huge goal."
Brownlee, who put up 41 points on 15-of-25 shooting in the game, said the Gin Kings are "just happy to be able to advance."
"We just didn't wanna go to a second game with them, because that's a dangerous team. Very talented. We just wanted to do whatever we can to try to close them out in the first game," he added.
That they have now twice prevented the Beermen from achieving their Grand Slam dreams is not something that Ginebra has ever dwelled on. Indeed, Brownlee admits he had no idea that this was their second strike against the Beermen.
"Wow, I didn't know that," he said. "Must've slipped my mind or something."
"But, it's just great to advance, no matter who we play at this point. Like I said, that's an incredible team, very talented, probably one of the best teams to ever play in this league, and it's just always feels good to beat those guys. We have a lot of respect for them," the celebrated import said.
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