Christian Standhardinger and Barangay Ginebra will look to write another happy ending for their fans to enjoy after reaching familiar territory on Wednesday with another trip to the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals.
And Standhardinger, whose basket off Justin Brownlee’s pass in the dying seconds to complete an 87-85 comeback win and a sweep of semifinal foe San Miguel Beer, is hoping that the things that made them successful can be carried into the faceoff with either TNT or Meralco.
“Coming into playing Meralco or TNT, we need to just focus on what can we do, (what) we can each do to (improve) the probabilities that we can be victorious,” Standhardinger said after the come-from-behind result fashioned at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We have done that so far, and we hope we can find the little puzzle pieces in this Finals series,” the prime Player of the Conference candidate added after the Gin Kings got a crack at a third successive crown in the season-ending conference. “And we know we have to go all out and hope for the best.”
TNT eases out front
The victory, carved out after the Kings trailed by 17 early in the third quarter, gave Ginebra an extended break while waiting for the other series to conclude. The ultimate stage of the season-ending conference won’t start until April 9, Easter Sunday.
The Tropang Giga took a 2-1 lead over the Bolts after a 99-80 win in the nightcap as TNT got the chance to close this series out in Game 4 slated on Friday also at the Big Dome. A deciding Game 5, if necessary, is set on Sunday at Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
Ginebra had faced both teams for the title in the past, including four meetings against Meralco. That prompted coach Tim Cone to recall a popular Filipino movie series which he had watched in the past.
“It’s like ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll.’ What was it like, ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll 14?,’” Cone said, drawing laughter from everyone inside the press room during the customary postgame press conference.
Turning serious, Cone is bracing for a tough tactical battle against old rival Norman Black of Meralco or his former Alaska player Jojo Lastimosa, who is calling the shots on an interim capacity—and doing a good job at it—for TNT this conference.
“It’s always an incredible challenge going up against Norman. And Jojo’s my team captain for years and my assistant coach for years and I would be happy to go up against him. And it’s gonna be difficult because he knows me like the back of his hands.
“We just take who’s coming and will try the best we can to attack once we figure out who’s gonna be there,” he added.
Ginebra achieved its first-ever sweep of a best-of-five series after producing convincing wins in the first two games and going through the wringer in the eventual clincher.
The Gin Kings trailed, 55-38, early in the third quarter, and it seemed there was no way for them to orchestrate a signature comeback.
But there were plenty of happy faces inside the locker room afterwards after a turnaround behind Jeremiah Gray, Scottie Thompson, Standhardinger and Justin Brownlee.
Brownlee’s pass to Standhardinger broke an 85-all tie for only Ginebra’s second lead in the second half before their hearts almost dropped when San Miguel’s Marcio Lassiter missed a three at the buzzer.
San Miguel will have to think of its vacation plans as individuals after being swept for the first time in a best-of-five series in its proud history.
Coach Jorge Gallent took over from nine-time champion Leo Austria and steered the Beermen to the No. 2 seed entering the playoffs.
But the loss of June Mar Fajardo to an MCL injury coupled with the Gin Kings’ trademark playoff form proved to be too much for the Beermen.