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The other perspective of Justin Brownlee’s shot heard around the nation was the costly mistake made by the Meralco Bolts.
“We should have fouled on that last play,” reflected Meralco coach Norman Black. “That was the instruction and we did not, cost us the game.”
But Black offered little reason to sour grape on the miscue that allowed Barangay Ginebra San Miguel to end eight years of frustration on Brownlee’s buzzer-beating three that sealed a 91-88 victory in the title-clinching Game 6 of the PBA Governors’ Cup finals.
“I thanked the players for their effort this year,” he said. “This was unexpected for most people that we would be in this position right now, and I was very proud of what the players have done in this tournament.”
Unexpected may have been the perfect term for the Bolts’ runner-up finish in the third conference, considering how things started so bad when they went 1-10 in the Philippine Cup.
But Meralco eventually overcame that miserable performance in the Commissioner’s Cup when Best Import winner Arinze Onuaku nearly led the team to a breakthrough finals berth, losing to a deciding Game 5 to Alaska in the semifinals.
Then in the Governors’ Cup, Meralco rode on the performance of another Best Import awardee in Allen Durham, coupled with improved plays from the hardworking Cliff Hodge and the renewed vigor of veterans Jimmy Alapag and Reynel Hugnatan to reach the PBA’s biggest stage.
In the finals for the first time since joining the league in 2010, Meralco won two of the first three games of the series, but tough breaks opened the door for Ginebra to win three straight and capture its first title since 2008.
Durham nearly forced a Game 7 when he missed a tough layup with 5.5 seconds remaining and the game tied at 88-all, setting the stage for Brownlee to turn the Smart Araneta Coliseum into a madhouse.
“Honestly, I didn’t even saw it,” said Durham. “I thought it went in. I just heard people cheering and that I thought it went in. But yeah, I was surprised and Brownlee hit a tough shot.”
Durham had to do the difficult task of watching Ginebra’s celebration while waiting for his name to be called to receive a special award from a sponsor. But the bitter pain of coming so close to the title has given the Bolts a reason to chase for bigger things next season.
“Hopefully this season would be the foundation for this team moving forward, being last, getting to the semis, now getting to the finals,” said Alapag. “Hopefully we can have the consistency year in and year out and to give yourself a chance to compete for the championship.”
Next season would be about a month, reason for Meralco to continue its progress.
“No rest for the weary, the draft is coming up and we have to prepare for that,” said Black.