By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

FOR the third time in the last four years the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings and Meralco Bolts dispute the title for the season-ending Philippine Basketball Association tournament Governors’ Cup.

A best-of-seven affair, the finals series begins on Jan. 8 and to be played in four venues.

The Kings have had the number of the Bolts in the finals to date, taking the first two encounters, 4-2 and 4-3, in 2016 and 2017, respectively. But Meralco fortified its roster of late with solid acquisitions which it hopes could help it finally go over the hump and win its first-ever PBA crown.

Barangay Ginebra was the first to barge into the finals of this edition of the Governors’ Cup.

It fended off a spirited challenge from the upset-minded Northport Batang Pier, 3-1, in their best-of-five semifinal series. Prior to that, the fourth-seeded Kings eliminated and crushed the grand slam hopes of the San Miguel Beermen in the quarterfinals where they saw no need to use their twice-to-beat advantage.

In their last game against Northport, import Justin Brownlee led the Kings in securing the finals berth, finishing with 36 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists.

Japeth Aguilar had 20 points, nine boards and seven assists while LA Tenorio and Stanley Pringle had 19 and 18 points, respectively.

Scottie Thompson also had it solid, chalking up 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.

The Kings swept their last three games versus the Batang Pier after being routed by 34 points in the series opener.

“Hopefully this is our time again. In the previous three PBA season we always had a title to show for. Hopefully we win another one this year,” said Mr. Tenorio following their victory.

The Bolts, meanwhile, are looking to make it third time a charm after falling short in each of their two attempts at a PBA title. They acquired the services of guys like Raymond Almazan and Allein Maliksi in recent trades to help them in their championship push.

Meralco outlasted the TNT KaTropa in their best-of-five semifinals, 3-2, punctuated by an 89-78 victory in Game Five on Dec. 23.

Import Allen Durham had it all-around anew with 28 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists while Chris Newsome had 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the victory.

Rookie Bong Quinto exploded for 19 points with Mr. Maliksi adding 11.

In the quarterfinals, the second-seeded Bolts dispatched the Alaska Aces.

“It was a tough path but everybody was just focused on getting back to the finals,” said Meralco coach Norman Black.

In their lone game in the Governors’ Cup this year, the Bolts won over the Kings, 101-77.

Meanwhile, the finals series begins on Jan. 8, Wednesday, with Game One set for 7 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Game Two will be on the road in Lucena City with the series going back to the Big Dome for Games 3 and 4.

Game Five will be played at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Games Six and Seven will be at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.