Only a few things in life are constant: death, taxes, and Justin Brownlee playing for Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
More than a handful of players easily come to mind when going through the history of Ginebra yet much of the success of the Gin Kings over the last five years comes in large part due to Brownlee.
With Brownlee on the roster, Ginebra has won three of the last four PBA Governors’ Cup championships, 2018 Honda PBA Commissioner’s Cup, and the 2020 Honda PBA Philippine Cup, arguably up there with the success of sister team San Miguel Beermen. The growing familiarity with each passing conference only makes Brownlee and Gin Kings a tougher beat.
The previously undefeated Alaska Aces got a firsthand taste of that early into the conference as Ginebra slipped past the Aces with a come-from-behind 80-77 win.
Brownlee helped Gin Kings begin their 2021 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup on a good note, scoring a game-high 28 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and posting three steals and two blocks. His solid performance certainly atoned for the struggles of the rest of his squad as only Japeth Aguilar (11 points) finished in double figures.
Alaska let a winnable game slip away and struggled offensively as only Olu Ashaolu (19 points) Yousef Taha (nine points) and Rodney Brondial (four points) made more than half of their shots. Unfortunately, the loss also negated the 23-20 advantage in bench points that came in quite a close game.
The Aces had control for much of the first three quarters, albeit holding a small lead over Ginebra. Crucial for them was that they were able to control the boards, even finishing the game with a 55-45 rebounding advantage. However, Brownlee came through in crunctime and made some timely baskets throughout the game, helping setup Stanley Pringle’s go-ahead turnaround jumpshot with 40 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Much of how the game played out can be attributed to shaking some rust off, especially on the Gin Kings’ side. Alaska had already played two games prior to their contest with the Ginebra, and it certainly played into them controlling the game. Fortunately for them, the Aces couldn’t finish the job and match their win total from the recently concluded All-Filipino Conference.
Moving forward, however, the Gin Kings will hope that the rust will have all been left behind in the game against Alaska. The late start was also a blessing in disguise for Ginebra as they were able to get extra rest and practice time in order to assimilate Brownlee to the lineup and make the necessary adjustments. Losing the battle of the boards despite having Brownlee, Aguilar, and Christian Standhardinger, though, is unacceptable. The presence of imports certainly evens the playing field, but rebounding by platoon would help them win the numbers game, especially when they play the likes of SMB, the Magnolia Hotshots, NLEX Road Warriors, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, and the TNT Tropang Giga.
Scoring won’t be so much of an issue for the Gin Kings as well with Brownlee in the fold, but adjustments will have to be made with the likes of Christian Standhardinger, who moved to Ginebra earlier this year. Despite playing 36 minutes, Standhardinger only scored eight points and largely watched as Brownlee, Aguilar, and Pringle went to work. Standhardinger has always been a player willing to adjust to different systems and stints with the Beermen, Northport Batang Pier, and now the Gin Kings prove that. That he was always in the race for Best Player of the Conference in all those stints only solidifies his case.
Ginebra head coach Tim Cone will also have to be smarter with the minutes of key players as playing Brownlee, Pringle, and Standhardinger more than 35 minutes may prove to be unsustainable and could lead to injury. Trusting his bench more will be more beneficial in the long run, especially if they plan on taking another shot at a title.
Good things always come to Barangay Ginebra whenever Justin Brownlee is around. Each new conference will present its own challenges but the stability of having had Brownlee for quite some time will only give them a favorable outlook in the season-ending conference.