Justin Brownlee was back in his element as he towed Barangay Ginebra past Meralco, 99-93, to equalize the 2021-22 PBA Governors’ Cup Finals series at one game apiece, Friday night at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
The conference’s Best Import frontrunner redeemed himself from a rare poor shooting performance in the first game two nights ago, finishing with a game-high 36 points on an impressive 12-of-18 shooting from the floor.
And the match’s most important bucket came from him as well — a two-handed jam right after snatching the ball away from Chris Banchero with 1:22 left for the 96-91 lead that killed their foes’ momentum after climbing back from 20 down.
“Justin, the steal on Banchero, was probably the play of the game,” offered head coach Tim Cone. “We had to make some spectacular plays down the stretch to win this game, and that’s the way a series is going to be.”
Brownlee also collected 13 rebounds and nine assists in a near triple-double outing. He chalked up a pair of blocks and a steal as well in 45 minutes.
“[With[ Justin struggling in Game One, you knew he’s gonna come back and blow everybody away in Game Two,” offered Cone, as the American forward shot just a dismal 7-of-20 from the floor in the series opener.
Brownlee scored 22 of his points in the first half, including 13 in the second period alone that saw the Gin Kings erupt for 40 points while limiting the opposition to just 19 to head into the break with a 60-42 lead.
The lead even ballooned to 69-49 following a three-pointer by Jeff Chan off a Scottie Thompson assist with 9:16 to go in the third.
But it was in that same quarter where the Bolts began to counter-attack behind sophomore Aaron Black, who poured 15 points in the period alone.
And thanks to the second-generation cager, his side was able to cut the deficit to just a field goal, 84-86, with 7:21 remaining in the final chapter.
Meralco sliced the deficit to two points for another time thanks to Tony Bishop, but Christian Standhardinger and Brownlee converted a three-point play each to give Ginebra a 94-86 cushion with less than five minutes left.
The Bolts still fought back and chopped the gap to just three, 91-94, thanks to Chris Newsome’s tough triple, until Brownlee came up with that big steal and slam to widen the gap to five — and deflate their morale.
“I just think it was more of a mental adjustment coming out,” said Cone of the Game Two victory. “We came out with a little bit more fire, with a little bit more purpose, and really focused on some of the little things that we played.”
Thompson finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, including one with a little over five minutes left that wowed the 12, 248 fans in attendance.
LA Tenorio made 13 points after a five-point Game One outing. Standhardinger registered a double-double of 16 and 12, while Nards Pinto added 10 in the win that saw Ginebra shoot 46-percent from the field, including 13 triples.
“Tonight it was our night … We hope we can use this day tomorrow to recover and then come back on Sunday and put another big game together,” said Cone as they look forward to Game Three on Sunday, still at the MoA Arena.
Bishop, meanwhile, led Meralco with 31 points, 16 of which he made in the opening quarter. He also had 13 rebounds.
Black backed him up with a career-high 24 points, five points clear of his previous personal record. The 25-year-old added six assists, three rebounds, and two steals in nearly 32 minutes as a starter.
Banchero supplied 14 points in the loss, where the Bolts received nothing from Allein Maliksi as he went scoreless after dropping 22 in Game One.
Ginebra 99 – Brownlee 36, Thompson 16, Tenorio 13, Standhardinger 12, Pinto 10, Chan 7, Mariano 5, Salado 0, Onwubere 0, Devance 0, Ayaay 0.
Meralco 93 – Bishop 31, Black 24, Banchero 14, Newsome 7, Almazan 6, Quinto 5, Hodge 4, Baclao 0, Maliksi 0, Belo 0, Hugnatan 0.
Quarterscores: 20-23, 60-42, 82-71, 99-93.
The second game of each playdate is also livestreamed on SMART Sports.