Barangay Ginebra thrash import-less NLEX Road Warriors to set up huge PBA Governors' Cup semifinal with San Miguel Beermen

Capitalizing on the absence of NLEX Road Warriors import Wayne Selden Jr., Justin Brownlee and Barangay Ginebra romped to a 127-93 win in the PBA Govenors' Cup playoffs on Sunday to set up a semifinal clash with San Miguel Beermen. PBA Media Bureau

Barangay Ginebra set up a titanic best-of-five semifinal clash with sister team San Miguel Beermen by thrashing import-less NLEX Road Warriors, 127-93, in their 2023 PBA Governors' Cup quarterfinal game Sunday night.

The Road Warriors, playing without the injured Wayne Selden Jr., were in it only in the first quarter before the third-seeded Ginebra outscored them 38-19 in the second quarter to virtually put the game away.

Five players chipped in at least 22 points for Ginebra, which has won six of its last seven. Now they face their stiffest challenge yet.

Gin vs. beer

After San Miguel won the Philippine Cup, Ginebra captured the Commissioner's Cup -- so the winner of their semifinal series will move closer to taking a second title this season.

Along with TNT Tropang Giga, the Kings and the Beermen have been the cream of the crop this conference.

"We're playing well, but San Miguel is probably playing the best in the league right now," Ginebra coach Tim Cone said. "They're playing really well. Like us, they're sharing the ball. They play defense a little bit differently from us, but they're super effective.

"I wish it was a best-of-seven because it gives you more room for error, but it's gonna be a really, really tough series even if (Beermen star) June Mar (Fajardo) is not there. They've proven over the last three games that they can play at a high level even without him.

"In fact, they play a little bit quicker, a little more up and down. Their import (Cameron Clark) has a little more opportunity to dominate inside."

Justin Brownlee is already bracing for a tough series and match-up against Clark, saying: "He's definitely going to be a tough match-up for us. He's really good on the inside and mid-range and some perimeter. In my opinion he's been one of the best imports this conference.

"He's been leading San Miguel very well. (I'm) just expecting a tough, hard battle. It's not gonna be just one guy who can contain him and even try to stop him. (We'll need) just a collective group (effort) and I'm sure coach Tim will come up with a good game plan for us."

Both sides have players who have stepped up in the absence of injured teammates. Christian Standhardinger, who is the frontrunner for Best Player of the Conference, has more than filled the void left by Japeth Aguilar and LA Tenorio. On the other side, CJ Perez has been close to unstoppable for the Beermen, who are without June Mar Fajardo and Terrence Romeo.

"Christian was our 'June Mar-stopper' and I think he was literally the best player in the league in terms of matching up to June Mar," Cone noted. "And now that June Mar isn't there, his duties will change but we'll try to put him in a position where we can take the most advantage of his defensive skills.

"But there's so many guys on that team that you have to account for. Obviously CJ Perez is playing MVP basketball. Nobody's been able to stop him from getting to the basket. They have a lot of weapons out there. So we're just going to have to try to figure out a way to contain some of them, especially the import, especially CJ."

End of the road for the Road Warriors

Like fellow Governors' Cup fast-starters Converge FiberXers, the Road Warriors won their first four games -- when they still had Jonathon Simmons to call on.

But the NBA veteran left for a bigger contract in China, and things just weren't the same after that. With Selden, NLEX went 3-4 for the rest of the elimination round to slip out of the top four. Worse, Selden suffered a foot sprain against San Miguel last Wednesday that forced him to sit it out.

"I've done everything the last couple of days to try to get ready for today but my foot wasn't gonna allow me to play today," Selden said. "I know I wouldn't been of help to the team. It was tough. I tried to work out this morning but I couldn't cut. I couldn't really run. I wouldn't really have been effective."

Cone didn't know about Selden's injury until moments before game time.

"It's really, really bad luck," he noted, "I didn't know until right before I was leaving the locker room to go out that the import was injured and wasn't gonna play. We had no idea. That's such bad luck for NLEX.

"Obviously the game would have been a lot, lot different with Selden here. He's a stud. I commiserate with (NLEX coach) Frankie (Lim) because it's really tough to lose your import going into the playoffs. That's like the worst luck you could have."

It was a disappointing end to the Road Warriors' season, which saw them scramble for a new coach after Yeng Guiao jumped back to Rain or Shine Elasto Painters after the Philippine Cup. Lim was brought in for the last two conferences, and it appeared as if they had found their groove in the Governors' Cup before Simmons left.

"Losing Sims was a big factor," Lim said. "We were playing really well. But you know, that's part of the game."

Lim said the team will take a break first before regrouping likely after Holy Week. The Road Warriors are scheduled to play in a pocket tournament in May, then after that they will look to swing some deals to improve their roster.

"We have to get to the level of San Miguel, Ginebra, Magnolia, TNT," Lim said. "They're the yardsticks."