By Jonas Terrado
Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s Justin Brownlee and Meralco’s Allen Durham brought their teams back to the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals despite a conference that saw the arrival of high-caliber imports experiences.
The two somewhat took a step back during the course of the conference as the likes of ex-NBA cagers KJ McDaniels of TNT KaTropa and Manny Harris of NLEX and former G-League and European veterans Dez Wells of San Miguel Beer and Michael Qualls of NorthPort dazzled the crowd with athleticism and their ability to score at will.
In the end, however, familiarity and an ability to keep up with the new imports enabled Brownlee and Durham to set up a third Finals meeting between their ballclubs in the last four editions of the season-ending conference.
“I think it’s a testament to our hard work and how dedicated we are to our team,” said Brownlee, whose latest Finals duel with Durham began last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“I think that’s mostly contributed to us being here, and having that chemistry with the guys for all of these years,” Durham said, seeking a first title after he and Meralco fell short against Brownlee and Ginebra in 2016 and 2017.
Both players were able to give their teams spots in the top four after the eliminations with Durham showing why he was named Best Import twice and Brownlee maintaining Ginebra’s good flow on both ends of the court.
They also made the Finals after beating the newbies during the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Durham and the Bolts made short work of the Alaska Aces and the underrated-yet-productive Franko House in the quarterfinals before outlasting TNT KaTropa and McDaniels in the semis that lasted five grueling games.
Brownlee, meanwhile, made it past the quarterfinals by ending the Grand Slam dreams of San Miguel, which saw former NBA player John Holland turn into a dud after the high-scoring Wells left following an ankle injury and a skirmish with local teammates in practice.
The Kings and Brownlee bounced back from a Game 1 semis defeat to beat out Qualls and the underdog NorthPort Batang Pier in the semis.
“All of the imports were great this conference and me and Justin were left standing,” said Durham. “Definitely, team chemistry and being familiar with the guys that you’ve been to battle with, that got us here.”
The numbers also spoke of how Brownlee and Durham performed this conference.
Brownlee averaged 29.0 points, 13.6 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.4 blocks through the semifinals while Durham posted 30.9 points, 15.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists.
“You gotta give credit to the teams as well,” Brownlee said, pointing out the importance of their respective teams’ belief of them being good fits since debuting for their teams in 2016.
“Meralco is a good, all-around team with a great coach. And Ginebra, we’ll we got coach Tim (Cone) and we got a lot of players playing well for Ginebra. So it’s just a mixture, I guess, of what we can bring to the team and what the team already has,” Brownlee added.