Editor’s note March 30, 2023: We’ve updated the article to accurately reflect that the Terrafirma Dyip drafted Jeremiah Gray, not the Blackwater Bossing.
After today, fans of the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings won’t hesitate to remind you of the constant things in life: death, taxes, and the Gin Kings making the finals.
In true Never-Say-Die fashion, Ginebra came back from an 18-point deficit to stun and sweep the San Miguel Beermen with an 87-85 win in Game 3 of the 2023 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals.
It was an electric finish to say the least, and there was no better way for the Gin Kings, who trailed for much of the game, to punch their ticket to the finals. Justin Brownlee led all scorers with 22 points, but it was a team effort that got the win, as all but one Ginebra player who entered the court scored.
The Gin Kings will be entering the finals for the fifth time in the last six editions of the PBA Governors’ Cup and have a shot at clinching a three-peat, a feat rivaled only by the four consecutive Governors’ Cup championships of the Alaska Milkmen.
What’s Ginebra’s secret to success? A lot actually.
Talent is an obvious factor, considering how the Gin Kings so far reloaded instead of rebuilding. We all know how Christian Standhardinger, Scottie Thompson, and Jaime Malonzo have taken more active roles within Ginebra’s system, but for this conference, the spotlight may have to be on Jeremiah Gray.
The second overall pick in the 2022 PBA Draft was on the move even before he could step into the court, as the Terrafirma Dyip, the team that drafted Gray, traded him to the Gin Kings for fellow rookie (and eighth overall selection) Javi Gomez de Liaño and guard Brian Enriquez.
A torn ACL delayed Gray’s debut and unlike the Dyip, Ginebra was willing to wait for the 26-year old to be cleared for on-court activities. Good things eventually came for the Gin Kings, who waited and are now four games away from winning two titles in PBA Season 47 thanks to Gray’s go-ahead 3-pointer.
Retaining talent, in terms of both players and coaching, has also been an integral part of Ginebra’s success. Teams with a championship-or-bust mentality can at times get impatient, but the Gin Kings have stayed the course. Winning at least one title in a season can do that, but consistent regular season results and observing what goes on behind closed doors provide some basis to keep the status quo.
Besides, head coaches like Tim Cone don’t grow on trees. Cone may be known as a savant of the triangle offense, but he has evolved with the times. The principles centering on creating space and crisp ball movement remain, but just as there is no singular path to winning, there are more ways than one to adhere to the aforementioned principles. Nowhere is this more evident than in the postseason.
The playoffs have a way of raising the pressure, and the finals are no different. Variables like injuries, the flow of the game, and how the contest itself is called are amplified and the gap between wins and losses is emphasized in these win-or-go-home situations. Adjustments thus become all the more important, and while talent can get you places, Ginebra has been able to roll with the punches and strike when the opportunity arises.
Familiarity is an antidote to adversity, whether that said familiarity manifests itself as championship experience or team chemistry built on years of playing together. It will certainly bode well for the Gin Kings, who will face either the TNT Tropang Giga or perennial finals nemesis Meralco Bolts. The Tropang Giga’s 99-80 win over the Bolts puts them on the brink of a finals appearance, but Meralco has always had a knack for shifting into a higher gear and this is something that doesn’t surprise Cone one bit.
The Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings are back in a familiar place: the finals of the PBA Governors’ Cup. While some of the faces have changed, the Gin Kings at their core haven’t changed. Thus, it’s no surprise that the results, which speak for themselves, remain the same.