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PBA: Ginebra flips the switch on Meralco in second half

Sol Mercado passes the ball under pressure from Meralco defense. PBA Media Bureau

MANILA, Philippines — Tim Cone described Barangay Ginebra’s performance against Meralco as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” after they emerged from the halftime break as a completely different team.

The Gin Kings were down, 54-43, to Meralco in their 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup game, and Cone acknowledged that they “played about as badly as we could in that first half.”

“We just didn’t look like we had any fight whatsoever. It was so discouraging,” he admitted. 

But a stern message from Cone at the half, and the encouragement of his assistant coaches, helped the Gin Kings flip a switch, so to speak. They dominated the third quarter, holding Meralco to just seven field goals, and went on to win by 15 points, 110-95.

For Cone, it was as though they “went to the locker room and turned off the lights, and when we turned the lights on, we were a completely different team.”

“It was fun to watch and fun to be around,” he added.

Cone gave most of the credit to his staff, particularly Richard del Rosario, whom he said had done most of the coaching in the second half of the game. However, del Rosario said their turnaround all started with something that Cone told them at the dugout.

“Si Coach Tim made an impassioned speech at halftime. It really affected the players and you know, nagkaroon lang ng change of attitude by the players in the second half. We were more aggressive,” said del Rosario.

The “impassioned speech”? According to Ginebra import Justin Brownlee, it was a very simple message from their coach.

“He came in and told us that we’re not good enough. Well, not that we’re not good enough, but we weren’t playing good enough to be able to compete in this conference for a championship, or just to be able to make the playoffs,” Brownlee revealed. 

“He came in and he said you’re not good enough and you guys aren’t playing with enough fight,” he added.

Hearing those words from Cone “hit a lot of guys pretty hard,” said Brownlee, who went on to anchor their comeback in the third quarter. 

“We came out there and just wanted to prove to him that we’re ready, and we can fight in this conference, and we can compete for a championship,” added the import, who finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists in a superb all-around performance.

Brownlee teamed up with Sol Mercardo, Scottie Thompson, Aljon Mariano, and Japeth Aguilar to start the third quarter, as Cone noted that it was their best line-up in the first half. Together, they scored the first 12 points of the period and Ginebra went on to outscore Meralco, 39-17, in the third frame to take control of the game.

“They went out and completely turned the game on its heels. They flipped the game for us,” said Cone.

Del Rosario stressed that as much as Cone wanted to credit him and the coaching staff, all the praise should go to the Ginebra players. 

“It’s really the players’ effort that was the difference here,” he said. “It was really just, you know, the players changing their attitude and be more aggressive.”

Ginebra improved to 1-1 with the victory, following an overtime loss to Blackwater last Friday. 

“We’re only playing 11 games, so if you go down 0-2, you’re already chasing literally everybody,” said Cone. “We certainly didn’t wanna fall down 0-2. It certainly looked that way at halftime, that that was what’s gonna happen.”

For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.

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