GINEBRA’S PATH TO THE FINALS
Barangay Ginebra finished the elimination round with a record of 7-4 earning them the 3rd seed in the playoffs. Despite their high seeding and twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals, it was not a walk in the park for Ginebra as they had to face the grand slam seeking San Miguel Beermen in the quarterfinals and a hungry young team in Northport Batang Pier during the semifinals.
As expected, their quarterfinals match against SMB was a high octane playoff battle that saw both teams trading big shot after big shot and key defensive stops up until the final buzzer. In the end, it was Stanley Pringle’s layup off of a key steal that sealed the deal and booked a semifinals ticket for Barangay Ginebra.
In the semifinals, Ginebra faced the upset giants Northport Batang Pier who entered the playoffs as the 8th seed before beating the top seed NLEX Road Warriors twice in the quarterfinals. In Game 1, Northport made a statement as they blew out Ginebra by 34 points, proving that they are a team not to be taken lightly. Ginebra, however, showed their championship poise and experience as they handily took the next three games of the series to book a return trip to the Finals.
In their past two Governor’s Cup finals meetings, there was one common denominator aside from Ginebra always getting the better of Meralco; it was LA Tenorio being named the Finals MVP. In their third Finals matchup, LA Tenorio is still the key player and barometer for Ginebra as he has been for the past several years.
The offense of Ginebra heavily relies on LA. His mastery of the triangle offense, ability to read pick and rolls as well as being the top three point shooter of Ginebra are vital for the team’s success. As he has shown in his two Finals MVP performances, Tenorio is a big time player. If Ginebra is to win another championship, Tenorio needs to be ready to put play his role as “El Teñente” and be the team’s MVP once again.
Another key returnee in this series for Ginebra is Greg Slaughter. In their 2017 Governor’s Cup title run, Slaughter was named the Best Player of the Conference and was a huge contributor in their Finals matchup against Meralco. This conference, however, Slaughter has been so-so for Ginebra due to his nagging injury. Despite that, a player of Slaughter’s caliber should provide the bench scoring and be an inside force to expose Meralco’s thin frontline.
The biggest change for Ginebra for this series is without a doubt, the inclusion of Stanley Pringle. Acquired during the course of the Commissioner’s Cup, it is safe to say that Pringle is now acclimated with how things work for Barangay Ginebra. Pringle has now adjusted to being another main facilitator for the triangle offense alongside Tenorio while also being one of the go to guy scorer aside from resident import Justin Brownlee.
In their previous two finals meetings, Ginebra was heavily reliant on the scoring load of Justin Brownlee and the hefty contributions of Tenorio. But with Pringle’s arrival, new scoring dynamics have opened up for Ginebra which could allow them to run the ball more and finish the break more consistently especially after defensive stops. Expect Pringle to wreak havoc against the perimeter defenders of Meralco. Expect him to be highly motivated for this series since it will be his first finals appearance in the PBA.
The vast improvement of Art Dela Cruz will also be another major addition for Ginebra coming into this series. While Dela Cruz was already on the team’s roster during their 2018 Commissioner’s Cup championship, he did not see any action because of injuries. In this season, however, Dela Cruz is already a vital part of Ginebra’s rotation.
Dela Cruz provides versatility for Ginebra. He’s a power forward who can shoot, defend, bring the ball down the floor and pass exceptionally well much like Joe Devance. A swiss army knife that is perfect for the triangle offense. With his wide skill set, Dela Cruz could be the one major X-factors for Ginebra because of what he brings to the table.
KEY FACTOR FOR GINEBRA TO WIN THE SERIES
In Ginebra’s three championships under head coach Tim Cone, the team has always had two calling cards: Defense and Justin Brownlee. If they are to win their fourth title with Cone at the helm, these will continue to be the way to go for Ginebra. Cone has always been a preacher of defense and every team he has coached has been elite defensively.
In this series, the defensive challenge for Ginebra is how to slow down Meralco’s import Allen Durham while also limiting the production of Chris Newsome and Baser Amer. As always, defensive adjustments and the utilization of his player’s will be Ginebra’s main advantage going into the series.
For the case of Brownlee, well, he’s a man that needs no introduction. We all know what he is capable of and what he can bring to the table for Ginebra. Simply put, if Brownlee is his usual self, scoring at least 25 to 30 points per game, then there is a good chance that Barangay Ginebra will Governor’s Cup champions once again.