By REYNALD MAGALLON
The jewel that eluded TNT for the past 27 years is now finally in its hands. And what a joy it was.
Mikey Williams and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made that possible as they powered TNT to a pulsating 97-93 victory over the defending champion Barangay Ginebra to win the 2023 PBA Governors’ Cup crown on Friday, April 21.
Williams exploded for a conference-high 38 points built on nine triples while Hollis-Jefferson pumped in 29 points, 14 rebounds and six assists as the Tropang Giga ended the reigns of the Kings with a 4-2 series win in Game 6 and claimed its very first season-ending conference title in its franchise history.
The closest they had been to finally win the title in the Governors’ Cup, TNT made sure to display its unwavering resolve and made the biggest plays down the stretch to deny a huge uprising from Ginebra in the final frame.
With the Kings rallying back from seven points down to take a two-point lead, 89-87 midway through the final frame, the Tropang Giga leaned on their veteran and the old reliable Jayson Castro who scored on an off-balanced floater to regain the lead, 90-89.
Justin Brownlee and Calvin Oftana traded baskets in the ensuing possessions before Jamie Malonzo put the Kings ahead once more, 93-92.
Williams showed nerves of steel and drilled a booming top of the key triple over the outstretched arms of Christian Standhardinger to put TNT ahead for good, 95-93 with 1:15 left in the game.
He had another chance to put the game to rest after being sent to the foul line with 43 ticks left but surprisingly missed both.
Fortunately, the Tropang Giga held on with their defense in the final minute to win the game that gave Jojo Lastimosa his first title in his first conference as the head coach.
Justin Brownlee, after failing to finish Game 5, announced his return with 29 points, 11 of which he dropped in the first frame when Ginebra took an 11 points lead, 23-12.
Malonzo added 21 points while Scottie Thompson chipped in 20. Standhardinger contributed 16 points and nine rebounds which proved to be futile in the end as Ginebra couldn’t force a winner-take-all Game 7.