LA Tenorio is bent on winning a first PBA Philippine Cup and it shows.
Tenorio translated his burning desire into game and keyed the Kings’ 100-94 overtime triumph over the TNT Tropang Giga last Sunday at the start of their PBA Philippine Cup finals at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Sports Arena in Angeles City.
Japeth Aguilar finished with a game-high 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting, alongside 16 rebounds; Stanley Pringle added 24 points, seven rebounds and as many assists, and Scottie Thompson and rookie Arvin Tolentino combined for 29 points and 13 boards.
Clearly, however, it was Tenorio’s superb playmaking in the most crucial of times that provided the big boost for Ginebra when perennial closer Pringle was stymied and propelled the team to a headstart in the best-of-seven series.
“They were doing a really good job on Stanley, switching out and doubling him down the stretch so we started putting the ball in LA’s hands and making him make the decisions,” said Kings coach Tim Cone. “He was really asking for it. He was asking for the ball.”
“In LA we trust,” added Cone. “He’s been around the course for so long, he’s used to that kind of situation where he has the ball in his hands.”
Tenorio proved Cone’s trust to be well-founded, issuing the assist that led to Tolentino’s lay-up that forged a 92-all count and forged the extension before setting up Tolentino and Aguilar for a semi-hook and a dunk, respectively, that put the game away 100-94, only 19 ticks left.
“Sabi ko sa kanya (Cone), ako na didiskarte. Just give me the ball,” related the 16-year-old veteran. “Ang importante lang talaga is ‘yung huwag kang matakot na magkamali.”
“Luckily, nagawa ko naman ng tama.”
That should come as an understatement as Tenorio wound up with 12 points, five rebounds and 10 assists. Most impressively, he committed no turnovers in 43 minutes of play.
The 36-year-old also Cone breathe a little easier after the game that had neither team leading by more than nine points and also featured 21 lead changes and 15 deadlocks.
“If we’re going to have six, four of these games I don’t think my heart is going to take it.
That was an incredible, incredible back-and-forth (game),” admitted Cone.
“I remember saying to the team as we are going into the timeout, I was yelling, ‘That’s how you be a team!’ Everybody is contributing. Japeth was rolling hard, getting to the rim, making it easy passing for LA. It was really a great team effort. Scottie on the defensive rebounds and Arvin played really well, had that big basket to tie the game with a beautiful cut to the rim,” added Cone.
“We have a lot of contributions and that’s the way it’s going to have to be when we play this team. No one person can be able to beat TNT. It’s going to be as a team, everybody contributing, everybody stepping up.”
Tenorio was quick to tone down any celebration this early in what is expected to be a long, drawn-out series.