by Jonas Terrado
Justin Brownlee scored the final five points to help defending champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel deal NorthPort its first loss, 73-70, in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Brownlee converted a layup then drained a corner three with 1:23 remaining in the fourth, allowing the Kings to produce a second straight win after dropping their opening assignment against the Blackwater Elite.
The Batang Pier had a chance to force the game into overtime but missed three attempts from rainbow country by Sean Anthony and Garvo Lanete.
Ginebra prevailed despite coach Tim Cone’s assessment of his team’s struggles against NorthPort’s zone defense.
“I feel like it’s a loss. It certainly wasn’t pretty,” said Cone.
Brownlee finished with 32 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals, Greg Slaughter added 16 points and Scottie Thompson 11 points and 12 rebounds for Ginebra.
Mo Tautuaa and Anthony had 15 and 14 points while import Prince Ibeh tallied eight points, 24 rebounds and five blocks but NorthPort lost after starting the conference with three straight wins.
Tautuaa’s layup with barely two minutes left gave NorthPort a 70-68 lead but Brownlee put on his trademark heroics in the clutch.
Ginebra played sans Jared Dillinger, who the other day was acquired in a stunning move after he was placed in the unrestricted free agent list by Meralco.
Dillinger is still out due to an injury quad.
In the first game, Rookie CJ Perez exploded for a career-high 39 points as Columbian gave import Kyle Barone a fitting sendoff with a 120-105 rout of NLEX in a battle of two 0-3 teams.
Perez went 15-of-21 from the field including seven three-pointers while adding nine rebounds, three assists and three steals as the Dyip barged into the win column after losses to Alaska, Meralco and Blackwater.
Barone added 31 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in his final game after Columbian tapped the services of Lester Prosper as his replacement.
The Dyip made the change as Barone’s performance left plenty to be desired despite averages of 27.0 points and 15.0 rebounds.
“He’s good, di lang siguro fit sa amin,” Cardel said of Barone.
Cardel is banking on Prosper, regarded as a rim protector during his stints in Europe, can provide the defensive presence Columbian needs for the remainder of the conference.
Import Tony Mitchell finished with 32 points and 16 rebounds but the Road Warriors dropped to 0-4 after the Petron Saturday Special affair.
NLEX played its second straight games sans coach Yeng Guiao, who is currently in Europe for a family vacation.