You could feel that Barangay Ginebra San Miguel's throngs of die-hard supporters slept well last night. Why wouldn't they? After trouncing the mighty San Miguel Beermen in the do-or-die Game 5 of the 2016 Governors Cup semifinals, [almost] everybody's beloved team has clinched its first Finals berth in three years, and with it, a chance to end an eight-year championship dry spell.
However, the Gin Kings are faced with a tall order, going up against the feisty Meralco Bolts in the finale. Playing electrifying basketball as of late, the Bolts outclassed favorites TNT KaTropa en route to their first trip to the last dance since entering the league in 2010. Now, we've got two extremely motivated squads about to go all out for the crown. To find out which team has the upper hand going into Game 1, here is a quick rundown of the main weapons Ginebra and Meralco have in its disposal, respectively, in order to win it all.
The Barangay's Guns
A strong candidate for Best Import, Ginebra's reinforcement has been doing it all for his team—except maybe wash his teammate's cars. Night in night out, Brownlee has stuffed the stat sheet, to the tune of 29.5 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. If he continues to elevate his game like he did versus the Beermen (26-10-7 assists in Game 5), BGSM will do just fine, especially on the offensive end.
Three-headed guard monster
Last round, LA Tenorio showed why he's still one of the best when it comes to setting the pace and making the right plays during the clutch. The Barangay even got a vintage performance from Tenyente in the decider, where he scored 18 and dished out 10 assists.
His backcourt partner, rookie Scottie Thompson, can influence the game even without taking too many shots. Considering his nose for the ball and willingness to create scoring opportunities for others, a triple-double or two in the Finals shouldn't be a surprise from the young gun.
The disruptor that he is, Sol Mercado can change the game's tempo with his speed and aggressiveness. He can also light it up from deep in a flick of the wrist. Even if only two of the three gurads click, Meralco is ought to have their hands full.
This is the very reason the management brought him in. Having the most accomplished coach in PBA history (18 titles) places Ginebra in a great position to end their grueling title quest on a high note. Judging from the results of the penultimate round, the team played more disciplined basketball and was able to contain the two-time MVP (June Mar Fajardo) and one of, if not the best shooter in the league (Marcio Lassiter) for stretches.
Japeth the Enigma
He's like the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of local hoops. One game he's as good as an NBA talent, the next he turns into a scarecrow in a jersey. BGSM fans are crossing their fingers for an A+ effort from the highly athletic forward on a nightly basis. An engaged and focused Japeth Aguilar all throughout the series could give the Bolts nightmares; imagine having to contend against a rebounding and shot-blocking demon with a more than decent perimeter game.
The Bolts' Weaponry
Like his Ginebra counterpart, Durham is also frontrunner to win Best Import. His beastly averages of 29.3 pts, 15 reb, and 1.4 blk this conference say it all. Meralco will welcome more Wilt Chamberlain impersonations in the final round. On the other end, the Gin Kings must find a way to limit Durham's insane productivity. One way is to double the hard work they put in against another power player in Fajardo.
The energizer bunnies
Cliff Hodge and Meralco's own high-flying rookie Chris Newsome has been going full throttle at providing firepower for the team. Together, they chip in a solid 26 points per contest, but on a great night, anyone from this tireless tandem can go off for a career night. Just ask TNT, who got shellacked by Hodge's 32 points in their matchup's final game. Ginebra should keep a body on him or Newsome, or suffer a poster.
If the opposing team has a grandmaster coach leading the way, well, Meralco's also got a master tactician in their fold—Norman Black. He is no stranger to winning titles as a coach (11), including a Grand Slam in 1989. Black knows what buttons to push for his team and players to be at their best. His best asset, however, could be veteran point guard Jimmy Alapag. The Mighty Mouse will be the consummate locker room presence the Bolts need to stay in near-perfect form.
Reynel Hugnatan (Yes, the Reynel Hugnatan)
Hugnatan, at age 37, can still give his team a significant lift when the moment calls for it. He has become one of Black's most dependable players as he was to all his past coaches. Proof of Hugnatan's invaluableness is his Game 3 performance against TNT, in which he exploded from beyond the arc (5 out of 6), for a total of 21 points. If this is old fellow outplays Japeth in the series, man, the Barangay will go batshit crazy.