Bay Area may have failed to win the Commissioner’s Cup crown, but it will fly back to Hong Kong carrying the valuable lessons it gained from its first-ever participation in the Philippine Basketball Association.
Dragons coach Brian Goorjian said the biggest lesson they learned was how to perform in front of a roaring crowd, something that they experienced when Barangay Ginebra San Miguel punished them with a 114-99 beating in Game 7 of their best-of-seven finals series late Sunday at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
With a record crowd of 54,589 in attendance, the Dragons lost their invincibility as the Kings turned a slim six-point edge, 27-21, at the end of the first period into a 61-39 blowout entering halftime.
Although the Dragons tried to fight back, the Kings banked on the spectators’ thunderous roar inside the 55,000-seater venue to unload 34 points and push the lead to as many as 28 points, 75-47, until posting a 21-point cushion at the end of the third period, 75-47.
It was all Ginebra from there as Jamie Malonzo, Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar and import Justin Brownlee penned a fitting ending to their quest for their 15th title against a powerful, well-oiled visiting team from Hong Kong.
Goorjian said they may have lost the war, but they gained a lot of lessons, especially their young guns in 22-year-old standouts Hayden Blankley and Kobey Lam.
“These guys have never experienced anything like this before,” Goorjian said, adding that the experience of facing Ginebra – and its massive fanbase – is something they will cherish for the rest of their basketball careers.
“They’re different. There’s physicality. There’s toughness. There’s an emotion that they have never experienced before.”
Myles Powell, the former National Basketball Association playmaker who subbed in for injured Andrew Nicholson at the crucial stretch of the series, finished with 29 points on 9-of-22 shooting to go with seven rebounds and five assists while Blankley and Lam chipped in 25 and 13 markers apiece for the Dragons, who used their PBA stint as springboard for the East Asia Super League Champions Week this March.
EASL chief executive officer Matt Beyer said he hopes the PBA will keep its door open for the Dragons and other foreign clubs.
“I expect a major streaming deal for the PBA if the Bay Area Dragons remain part of the league in future conferences,” he said.
By that time, the Dragons will surely be fiercer, tougher against the Kings and, of course, their massive group of supporters.