A champion has been crowned and the confetti has fallen on the shoulders of the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings.
Ginebra would not be denied its fourth PBA Governors’ Cup in the last five editions of the conference, exerting their dominance once again over the hapless Meralco Bolts.
However, it wasn’t without its qualms as the universe seemed to have wanted to extend the 2021 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup Finals. First, there was a fire incident that pushed back both the Grand Finals of the second PBA 3×3 conference and Game 6 of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals by another two days.
Second, the Bolts had a good start to their Game 6, as Meralco was able to turn a first quarter advantage into a seven-point lead during the early moments of the second quarter.
Yet, the Gin Kings seemed unfazed.
It wasn’t so much a run as it was a slow and steady effort to claw back. Contributions were abound as all but one Ginebra player who entered the court scored, with the 23 assists the Gin Kings finished with pointing to team work making the dream work. Of course, Justin Brownlee did his damage especially in the third quarter, but it’s safe to say that the night belonged to LA Tenorio. The 37-year old poured in a game-high 30 points and even had his moment in sealing the title for Ginebra.
Winning titles, more in bunches, is no joke and credit should be given to Gin Kings head coach Tim Cone for putting it all together. The changes, albeit small considering most of his usual players continued to play the lion’s share of minutes, posed some challenges as the other PBA teams reloaded, but familiarity has time and again proven to have been the winning formula for him and Ginebra. The principles of the triangle offense can bring about equal opportunity among those on the court, but it certainly won’t stop players from having big moments.
Bringing back Brownlee has always been a good starting block, as he can operate on the low block and work from the perimeter depending on what the situation calls for. That the Gin Kings have big men in Christian Standhardinger and Japeth Aguilar (who only played for a handful of games due to injury) surely allows for that luxury and creates an imposing frontcourt that gave the Bolts headaches in the series.
Tenorio has been with Ginebra for a decade and while Scottie Thompson has a different role within the team, he has slowly transitioned into the lead guard spot for the Gin Kings. Thompson has left his mark in these finals in various ways, but his rebounding and shotmaking have done the most damage not just because of the timing, but also because of how it doused any momentum from Meralco. In the process, he earned his 2nd Finals MVP award.
Barring any trades or moves abroad, the 28-year old will have more than a handful of seasons (and championships) with Ginebra and could himself usher in a new era. Thompson is actually the youngest guard playing meaningful minutes within the roster and Tenorio (37) and Stanley Pringle (35) are on what is typically seen as the wrong side of 30.
It could be harder to replace the big men, although they still have time as Aguilar is the oldest at 35. Role players in Sidney Onwubere, Prince Caperal, Brian Enriquez, and Raymond Aguilar have rarely, if not never, seen the court during meaningful moments to the game and while it has been largely due to their deep rotation, it has affected their development and may see them initially struggle when their numbers are called. In any case, the Gin Kings have always found a way to acquire a big man to hold the line for them so there’s that.
With the way things are set up for the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings, it’s unlikely that this will be their last PBA Governors’ Cup championship. The players have come and (eventually) gone, but the one thing that will be constant is Ginebra’s oncourt success thanks to system, star power, and succession planning. Their run will likely come to an end, but they have laid down a blueprint to winning and doing so even as time passes by.