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PBA: Return of the Kings

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Ginebra back in the finals after ending San Miguel’s reign.

The crown is still four wins away for the Ginebra San Miguel Kings, but the usurper to the throne has been dealt with decisively.

Three years after they last crawled to the championship and eight years after they last wore the crown, the Kings waltzed back to the finals after dismantling defending titlist San Miguel Beer, 117-92, last night in the deciding Game 5 of the PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals before a roaring crowd of more than 20,000 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Ginebra will face first-time finalist Meralco Bolts in the best-of-7 series, with Game 1 on Friday at the Big Dome.

The Kings recovered from a second quarter meltdown with a big third quarter scoring binge behind the combined efforts of Justin Brownlee, LA Tenorio, Scottie Thompson and backup forward Aljon Mariano.

From a precarious seven-point advantage after the first two quarters, the Kings unleashed an 18-7 blast with Tenorio, Brownlee and Thompson burying a triple each for a 63-45 advantage.

Brownlee scored 16 points in the third quarter, while the rookie Mariano contributed eight – mostly on close range – as Ginebra, which led by 28 points (81-53) entering the final frame.

But the Kings committed a huge oversight in the second quarter and nearly paid the price.

In the first canto, Thompson scored 15 points as he went 6-of-9 shooting from the perimeter, including a perfect 3-of-3 from three-point territory while adding four rebounds for the Kings who were on fire from the onset.

In that opening quarter attack, the Kings converted 13-of-22 (59%) from the field, going 7-of-10 from beyond the arc, as Sol Mercado buried three treys while Brownlee had one.

The lead ballooned to 25 points, 37-12, on a jump shot by Tenorio with 11 minutes left in the second period.

Then came San Miguel’s fightback.

From the deep hole, the defending champions found their way back with a blistering 24-0 blast behind the 17 points from Arwind Santos which trimmed the deficit to, 37-36, with 3:14 to play in the quarter.

The run made by SMB was the third all-time most in league history, behind the record of 32 straight points registered, ironically, by Ginebra against Shell during the 1991 First Conference finals, and 24 consecutive points of Alaska versus TNT Katropa back in 2008.

Ginebra ended that SMB scoring spree with Brownlee nailing a jump shot to make it 39-36, and the Ginebra faithful breathed easier.

Halftime ended with the Kings leading the Beermen, 45-38.

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