Barangay Ginebra banked on a huge second-quarter fun to pummel Bay Area Dragons, 114-99, in Game 7 of the finals to win the 2022-23 PBA Commissioner's Cup before a record crowd at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue.
It marks the 15th PBA championship for the Ginebra franchise, but just the third won in the Commissioner's Cup.
The title allowed Ginebra to break a three-way tie with the Alaska and Magnolia franchises for second-most in league history. San Miguel Beermen remain No. 1 with 25.
It is also the 25th title for Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
"To think that I coached the other two teams and we pass them up," Cone said, referring to the two other franchises he has coached in a career that began in 1989. "I'm sorry, but I still can't stop thinking about you know, the time when we first came in, they hadn't won in eight years and we were able to win that first championship on Justin (Brownlee)'s shot."
With this win, recently-naturalized Justin Brownlee, who dropped 34 points, eight rebounds and 12 assists, is now six-for-six in PBA finals.
"Man, that makes it even more special," Brownlee said. "We played with all Filipinos tonight for the first time since I've been here. And just to top it off with a win...this is win is not only for Ginebra. This is for the whole country."
Ginebra led from start to finish and quickly turned what was predicted to be an epic Game 7 into a rout in front of 54,589 fans who set a new PBA single-game attendance record. The Kings outscored the Dragons 34-18 in the second quarter to establish a 22-point halftime lead that was never seriously threatened.
"We were frankly we were angry about Game 6," Cone revealed. "We didn't want to go to a Game 7. We felt we had Game 6 in hand. We made that nice comeback and we felt we had it in hand and then we let it slip away and we were angry about that. And I think that anger had spilled over into Game 7. Guys were really locked in from the very, very first minute."
The crowd, 99% of which was pro-Ginebra, was definitely a factor as the Dragons shot just 39% from the field, including 11-of-42 (26%) from beyond the arc.
"I really feel that they could feel the energy of the crowd that 54,000 that were here," Cone said. "Just from the very first basket when Justin scored on that first basket.
"It's hard to explain, but you can just feel the energy of the players just go up. We kept saying in the timeouts, 'No one's gonna get tired today no one's playing tired today.' We were just going to battle through and when we got that lead, I think it just kind of kept us purposeful.
"When you have that massive crowd behind you, you play better than you are and we played better than we are today. And every person in the coliseum was important to this win. And so we can't thank them enough for all showing up. Ironically, we didn't want to play a Game 7."
Cone also tipped his hat to his Dragons counterpart Brian Goorjian, whom he labeled as "really special," for the work he did, adding: "I mean, I can honestly say that. He had to go to basically three different lineups for this series.
"You know, one with Nicholson, and he played one way then he went all Chinese and he played one way. And then he came out with Powell and played another way, and his team stayed in their flow. When they lost to Nicholson, their spirit was incredible.
"Their motor really lifted up instead of going down. They didn't feel sorry for themselves. (Myles) Powell came off in Game 6 and played a wonderful game. But I felt that we could adjust him a little better. And the three days off actually gave us a little bit more time to adjust to him and the way they played with him."
In a minor surprise, Ginebra center Christian Standhardinger was voted Finals MVP, his first.
"Wow, what a surprise," said the Fil-German, who averaged 10.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in the series.
"It's really neat and cool that everybody recognized Christian because usually you're not gonna recognize that guy as the guy who does all the hard work and does the defense," Cone said. "He defended Nicholson early. He set all the screens, he's running all over the place. He just comes and plays here every time. And so I'm really, really pleased that he was honored for that and recognized for that, rather than just give it to the guy who's a top scorer. That's what we tend to do."
There were other heroes for Barangay Ginebra in this series. Newcomer Jamie Malonzo proved to be a valuable piece, while LA Tenorio battled through a groin injury in the last two games and came up with a huge triple near the end of the second quarter that capped a big Ginebra run.
"(Malonzo) had some really big three-point shots tonight, plus the energy level and his ability to get to the rebound," Cone said. "We challenged him before the game and we told him that, 'Jamie you got to be our best rebounder out there today. You know, you got to go out there and you got to go attack every rebound.'
"After Game 5 I told my wife, I don't think LA is going to be a factor in the series the rest of the way. we're going to have to find someone to step up and step into his place because I felt his injury was too severe. But he got a lot of help from the trainers.
"We got an outside trainer to come in and help us as well. And you know they were basically doing therapy 24 hours a day at his house and practice for the last three or four days getting him ready. He looked so much better today moved so much better today than he did in Game 6."
Reigning MVP Scottie Thompson could have also made a strong case for Finals MVP, especially with the defense he played on Powell in Game 7.
"Poor Scottie, we asked him to do so much and he's the only superstar out there that's going to defend the import of the other team, that's going to handle the ball, is going to get every rebound. How many superstars you know is going to do all that do all the dirty work and still score and still assist and still play at that energy level that he plays? He is an amazing player, much more than I think people really appreciate."