He may be just on his second tour of duty in this part of Southeast Asia, but Justin Brownlee can already call himself a two-time PBA champion.
Considered one of Ginebra’s best imports thanks to his epic shot in the 2016 Governor’s Cup Finals that ended their eight-year title wait, Brownlee has added another feather to his cap by helping the franchise repeat as champs.
The 29-year-old unloaded 23 points, eight rebounds, and five assists to help the Gin Kings overcome a gutsy fightback by rivals Meralco Bolts, 101-96, in the season-ending Game Seven, Friday night at the Philippine Arena.
With that, the six-foot-five guard-forward was absolutely elated when the dust had all settled, when all the confetti had finished raining down from the rafters.
“It just feels great,” said Brownlee. “I never thought as a kid… Of course you dream of playing in a championship, but I never thought it would be in a place like this; 50,000-plus,” he added, as the crowd in attendance reached 54,086.
“It’s just an amazing feeling playing on that court and winning the championship is unbelievable.”
But the road to his second crown was not a smooth ride. They were already up 20 early in the match, until the Orangemen came back strong as they cut it down to as slim as four, 96-100, with 47 ticks left in the game.
“Man, I gotta be honest. I got a little nervous,” admitted Brownlee of that late-game scare.
But then, Brownlee and the Gin Kings stayed composed, something that the American cager gushed about.
“The team stayed together, focused, and we were able to make key stops at the end to win,” he lauded, “I tip my hat to Meralco. They’re a tough team. They battled with everything they had to the last second, and we’re very fortunate.
“We knew what we had to do, whatever it took. We made a couple of stops to seal the deal.”
After yet another fruitful journey, Brownlee is already keen on coming back to the Philippines next year, since the opportunity to play in the country had caused a major turnaround in his career.
“I hope so. I definitely will. With the success I had with this team, the relationships I had, I’m truly blessed and I feel very lucky to be here for my career,” said Brownlee, who averaged 23.7 points and 12.3 boards in the series.
“Coming here was kinda like a lifesaver for me, it turned my life around.”