Barangay Ginebra pulled the plug on San Miguel's Grand Slam hopes anew after hacking out a 100-97 win in the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup quarterfinals Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Justin Brownlee poured in 41 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals, while Stanley Pringle added 24 and 5 assists for the Gin Kings, which denied the Beermen of a season sweep by eliminating them in the first round of the season-ending conference's playoffs for the second time in three years.
A 5-point swing, courtesy of a Brownlee corner triple and a Pringle layup, turned a 95-93 deficit into a 3-point lead with 2:11 left for Ginebra, which clung tight as SMB made repeated attempts to close the gap and force a knockout match.
After three missed shots and turnover by Ginebra, John Holland drained two freebies to slice the lead to just one, 98-97, with less than a minute to go. San Miguel couldn't capitalize, unfortunately, as a Holland turnover in a one-on-three fastbreak attempt led to two free throws from Pringle on the other end with 24 ticks to go.
The Beermen had two chances to send the game into overtime but were not able to follow through on two looks it got in the final seconds. Brownlee first swatted away a Romeo trey with 13 seconds on the clock, then Ross failed to find the net on a deep trey from the top of the key to let the game slip away from their hands.
"That team is so great. They've been this great for so long. You just know their players are gonna find that big moment, big play, big defensive stop, big score and... I'm not embarrassed to say that we're trying to be like them. They are the model right now that everybody is trying to achieve. That kind of dominance. It's really great for us to step up and play this team like that and play them tough," coach Tim Cone said after the game.\
June Mar Fajardo carried the scoring cudgels with 24 points and also pulled down 18 boards, while Holland added 20 points on an inefficient 7-for-19 clip to go with his 8 rebounds and two steals. Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter added 11 and 10 for a Beermen side that missed the suspended Arwind Santos, as well as Kelly Nabong and Ronald Tubid.
"Certainly Arwind would have changed the game. He's a game-changer, he's been a thorn in my personal side for a long, long time, making big shots and big plays," said Cone.
"They had a really good game plan and it worked really well," he added. "You're not gonna play a great game against that team because they're just not gonna allow you to play great games. Just happy that we had to grind it out. We needed to grind it out, and that's what we did. That's what the playoffs are all about, just grinding it out.
According to PBA statistician Fidel Mangonon III, this is SMB's fourth consecutive loss in do-or-die games in the Governors' Cup and the third time such a loss has come against the Gin Kings. Two of those instances, of course, led to Ginebra slamming the door on their foes' shot at a triple crown.
Ginebra, though, insisted that stopping the Grand Slam hunt by the Beermen again wasn't on its agenda.
"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," Cone said. "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. That's their thing, that's not our thing. That's their thing, going after that Grand Slam."
Brownlee added, "I didn't know that. 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."
After overcoming a titanic SMB challenge, the Gin Kings can look forward to taking their next step in the semifinals, where they'll face the victor of the NLEX-NorthPort matchup.
Barangay Ginebra (100) -- Brownlee 41, Pringle 24, Tenorio 12, Chan 6, Aguilar 6, Slaughter 5, Thompson 4, Dela Cruz 2, Devance 0.
San Miguel (97) -- Fajardo 24, Holland 20, Tautuaa 12, Cabagnot 11, Lassiter 10, Romeo 8, Ross 7, Pessumal 3, Ganuelas-Rosser 2.
Quarters: 23-23, 54-58, 78-83, 100-97.
- After winning their first four games, the Beermen went on to lose six of its next eight. The team also lost its last 3 games to close out the season.
- The Beermen shot a scorching 13-for-35 (37.1 percent) from deep in the first three quarters, but went just 1-for-11 in the last 12 minutes.