MANILA, Philippines – Barangay Ginebra's three stars – LA Tenorio, Greg Slaughter, and Japeth Aguilar – deserve plenty of credit following the Gin Kings' crucial 93-78 victory over TNT KaTropa in the PBA Philippine Cup on Sunday.
The three veterans combined for 72 points, with Tenorio going for 27 points and 11 assists, Aguilar adding 25 points, and Slaughter coming up with 20 points and 14 rebounds. They all came up big in the fourth quarter, when the Gin Kings finally pulled away from the undermanned KaTropa en route to the victory.
Coach Tim Cone said it himself: "LA was obviously awesome all night long, Japeth was making some brilliant passes to Greg, and we love seeing those two guys play together, and play well together, passing to each other, helping each other out on defense."
"That's the key to our success. It's not how well Japeth plays or how well Greg plays, it's how well they play together, and that's really the key for us. Tonight, they played well together," he stressed.
For Tenorio and Slaughter, however, their less heralded teammates deserve as much praise, if not more, following the win that hiked their record to 5-4 in the All-Filipino Conference.
"The most important thing in this game is really our bench players," said Tenorio, who outplayed TNT counterpart Jayson Castro in the game. "They really stepped up."
Tenorio mentioned Jervy Cruz and Kevin Ferrer as the crucial players in the game. Cruz had six points and six rebounds in a brief stint off the bench, while Ferrer scored all six of his points in the final quarter – the lanky forward knocked down a pair of triples that ignited Ginebra's breakaway.
It's not all about offense, however.
"When we stay step up, (it's) not necessarily about points sa team namin," said Tenorio. "It's really contributing defensively, and doing the little things."
Slaughter agreed, saying: "It may show up on the stat sheet that we scored a lot of points, but there's a lot of intangible plays made by our guys off the bench."
He noted that Mark Caguioa "had a lot of taps on loose balls," while Scottie Thompson provided his usual hustle and finished with 11 rebounds in the game.
"It was just a team effort," said Slaughter.
This is exactly what Ginebra needs as they head to the final stretch of the elimination round, according to both veterans. At 5-4, the Gin Kings are currently tied for fifth place with NLEX, but must win their final two games – against Meralco and Rain or Shine – to ensure that they won't be at a disadvantageous position in the playoffs.
"Hopefully, we can just gel more, and get a little more production out of our bench as the season goes on," said Slaughter.
"I don't think we're peaking yet," he added. "We still got two more tough games ahead of us. We'll just take it one at a time."
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