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PBA: Kings take Game 1

Justin Brownlee of Barangay Ginebra goes in for a layup (PBA Images)

Justin Brownlee of Barangay Ginebra goes in for a layup (PBA Images)

LUCENA CITY – Barangay Ginebra San Miguel drew first blood in their PBA Governors’ Cup finals rematch with Meralco last night in a performance that could indicate what lies ahead in a series many see as a tactical affair.

Ginebra leaned on a strong start, bucked a Meralco uprising in the third quarter before making a big breakaway in the payoff period on its way to a 102-87 victory in the opener of the best-of-seven title showdown witnessed by a packed crowd at the Quezon Convention Center here.

Import Justin Brownlee showcased why he was the hero of last year’s thrilling finals duel with the same team in the same conference when he fired 32 points, most of which were produced in the first and fourth periods to give Ginebra a headstart in its remaining hurdle in retaining the crown.

Japeth Aguilar added 15 points and Greg Slaughter had 14 points and eight rebounds in his first finals game as a pro to help the Kings set the tempo in the series. LA Tenorio produced 10 points and five assists and Sol Mercado dished out eight assists while scoring seven.

Ginebra, which forced Meralco to miss 15 of 17 three-pointers in the first two quarters, can take a 2-0 lead tomorrow night when the two teams return to the familiar confines of the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Bolts reinforcement Allen Durham scored 27 points but struggled in the first half when Brownlee put on a show with nine first quarter points and a 29-18 lead for the Kings.

But Durham scored 12 in the third while getting help from Mike Tolomia and Garvo Lanete as the Bolts charged back to pull within 75-71 on Tolomia’s four-point play with six seconds left in the third.

Tolomia’s long shot eventually went to waste as Ginebra quickly found Slaughter for a quarter-ending slam, igniting a big fourth that saw the Kings score six more points, ending on a Mercado three for an 82-71 advantage.

Brownlee’s three with 5:07 to go in the contest gave Ginebra its largest lead at 21 points, 96-75, ending the competitive phase of the contest.

Baser Amer finished with 14 points but failed to dish out an assist, a clear indication of how he and some of his Bolts teammates struggled in this city.

Jared Dillinger was held to just six points on 2-of-11 shooting, much to the delight of the Ginebra supporters who had expressed annoyance over the Meralco southpaw’s expression of ill feelings toward the league’s most popular ballclub.

Chris Newsome, contending with Slaughter for the Best Player of the Conference award, had just six points even as he turned the ball over four times.