In what has become the norm for Barangay Ginebra in an import-laden conference, Justin Brownlee got his numbers last Sunday in an overtime victory over the San Miguel Beermen at the Big Dome.
Brownlee was terrific for the Barangay again swishing in 39 points to go along with 15 rebounds and five assists. But his most impressive stat was actually the minutes he clocked in. Brownlee did not get a moments peace, playing all 53 minutes to lead the Ginebra to the win.
It is tough to ask that from any player, to expect them to play every single minute and expect them to perform at a high level throughout. Yet, Brownlee did just that, shooting a 59 percent clip from the field.
Logging on long minutes isn’t something new for Brownlee. In fact, the Ginebra reinforcement leads the league in minutes played at 46.8 per contest. To help justify those long minutes, Brownlee is the second leading scorer of the conference with 33.5 points per game.
But Sunday’s feat was so impressive that Ginebra coach Tim Cone seemed almost embarrassed when he talked about Brownlee’s herculean effort.
“At the start of the overtime I apologized to him,” Cone said after the game. “I said, ‘Justin I’m sorry I haven’t given you a rest!’ and he just smiled and said ‘That’s okay coach!”
Typically, Cone gives his prized import a short breather right before the fourth quarter. Cone said he planned to do that on Sunday, but with the final possessions of the third frame running long, he wasn’t able to do so.
Cone described the game as having playoff atmosphere, with the two ball clubs slugging it out throughout the night. According to the Grand Slam winning shot caller, Ginebra needed everything they got out of Brownlee in the win.
“That just goes to show how much we wanted this win, how much we needed it,” Cone admitted. “He played 53 minutes, and we needed every second he was on the floor to win this game.”
Brownlee’s highlights include his typical acrobatic finishes at the rim, clutch long ranged bombs, and a jaw-dropping chase down block to preserve Ginebra’s lead in the last two minutes of regulation.
The momentum from that block sent him careening over the barriers and into the photographers at press row. It was the type of effort that endeared Brownlee to Ginebra fans.
While fatigue may have played a factor in Brownlee’s airball in his final shot in regulation, Cone was effusive in his praise for the import. Cone revealed that Brownlee was cramping up going into the overtime period, but still elected to lean on him in the extra five minutes.
“He’s a trooper,” Cone added.”That’s why he is who he is. He’ll play through anything.”