By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
FOR the second year in a row, the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings and Meralco Bolts will dispute the championship for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup, beginning today in Game One of their best-of-seven finals series in Lucena City in Quezon Province.
Happening at the Quezon Convention Center at 7 p.m., the defending champions Kings and Bolts try to draw first flood and move a step closer to bagging the title for the season-ending PBA conference.
Barangay Ginebra seized the Governors’ Cup title last year over Meralco in six games and is looking to do a repeat of it while the Bolts have their sights set on redeeming themselves and bagging their first-ever PBA crown.
The Kings got the better of the TNT KaTropa in their semifinal match, three games to one, to barge into the finals anew where they are hoping to win their 10th title in franchise history.
Justin Brownlee, the man that towed the Kings to last year’s title conquest, is leading the team anew with averages of 24.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.2 blocks.
LA Tenorio has been posting 15 points, 5.4 assists and 1.6 steals per ball game while big man Greg Slaughter, who missed their championship run last year because of injury, has been going for 14.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.
Joe Devance and Japeth Aguilar are the two other Barangay Ginebra players scoring in double digits with norms of 12.2 and 11.1 points, respectively, while also combining for 12 rebounds per contest.
On the other end, leading the redemption bid of Meralco is reigning best import Allen Durham, who has been impressive again with numbers of 25.4 points, 20.1 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 1.3 blocks.
Baser Amer has been backstopping their import well with averages of 14.3 points and 4.3 assists with Chris Newsome also good for 13.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and five assists.
Veterans Jared Dillinger and Ranidel de Ocampo, meanwhile, are going for 10.4 points and nine points, respectively, for the Bolts, which swept the Star Hotshots in their Final Four encounter previously.
In their lone game in the PBA Governors’ Cup elimination round this year, Meralco beat Barangay Ginebra, 93-78.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF SERIES
While the Governors’ Cup finals will feature a rematch of the protagonists last year, local basketball analyst and sportswriter Levi Verora, Jr. said fans should expect a different kind of series from the year before.
“There a lot of differences between this year’s series and a season ago. For Meralco it is vastly improved with the addition of Ranidel de Ocampo and the development of its backcourt, particularly Baser Amer,” said Mr. Verora, who writes for SLAM magazine and covers games of the PBA and the ASEAN Basketball League, when asked by BusinessWorld for his finals thoughts.
“De Ocampo gives them an extra rebounder as well as a steadying presence who has won it all. Amer has impressively upped his game in just a short time and taken over well from Jimmy Alapag. The back court has also been shored up with the acquisition of Mike Tolomia and Garvo Lanete,” the analyst said.
“Over at Ginebra, the biggest difference is the presence of Greg Slaughter. He gives Tim Cone the flexibility to go with different combinations, be it a tall or small lineup,” Mr. Verora said.
Seeing how the two teams handled their affairs in the road to the championship, the analyst said both Barangay Ginebra and Meralco have what it takes to see their respective causes through.
“Ginebra has to stick to its system that has done it good. They have to maintain their balance and continue to be deliberate, which is their strength. Key for Meralco, meanwhile, is rebounding. They have to control the boards as the Kings are tougher to stop if they get their way in rebounds. The Bolts, too, have to continue shooting well, with guys like Amer, Dillinger and, even, Newsome,” Mr. Verora shared.
As to who gets to bring home the title this year, the analyst said it is truly tough to predict.
“This is one of the toughest series to predict in recent PBA history. They have a budding rivalry going here. Ginebra still has the advantage but Meralco is a deeper team now. I expect this to go the distance. The Kings may repeat but I won’t be surprised if the Bolts finally win their first title,” Mr. Verora said.
After today’s out-of-town Game One, the series swings back to Manila for Game Two on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.