MANILA, Philippines -- LA Tenorio, Barangay Ginebra's veteran point guard, knew he had an opportunity to make an impact in Game 6 of the 2021 PBA Governors' Cup Finals, where they were aiming to close out the Meralco Bolts.
Meralco's defense was keyed on Justin Brownlee, and they limited the import to just one field goal in the first half. But the game was tied at 47 at the half, thanks in part to Tenorio who fired 15 points in the first two quarters. Fil-German big man Christian Standhardinger (14 points, 7 rebounds) also picked up the slack.
"They were really eyeing too much on Justin, and probably Scottie," Tenorio noted. "So I had the opportunity to, kahit papaano, take charge."
"Especially sa mga ganitong laro, hindi ka talaga pwedeng magkamali. Sa akin, sa aming mga beterano, inaasahan din naman nila ako, and luckily, shumu-shoot lahat ng mga tira," he added.
Brownlee broke loose in the second half, and his 17 points in the third quarter helped Ginebra take control. But it was still Tenorio who put the finishing touches on the win: his three-pointer with 1:10 to play was the dagger as the Gin Kings defeated the Bolts, 103-92, to secure the championship.
"Save the best for last nga, sabi nila," said Tenorio after the game, as he finished with a conference-high 30 points. "Niloloko ko nga sila -- meron pa pala akong ibubuga."
Now 37-years-old, Tenorio has seen a shift in his role for the Gin Kings, with Thompson emerging as their primary playmaker while the veteran guard is playing off the ball more and more. Ginebra coach Tim Cone explained that they wanted to save Tenorio's legs, while also maximizing his shooting ability.
It was a move that worked wonders: Thompson had the best campaign of his young career, winning Best Player of the Conference honors, and Tenorio had enough left in the tank to close out the Bolts.
"That's LA," Cone noted afterward. "He has his moments where he's not playing great basketball, (and) he was a little up and down in this series."
"But whenever we really needed him to step up, he stepped up," he added.
Cone compared Tenorio to one of his former players, PBA legend Jojo Lastimosa. "Jolas" would also have games where he struggled, but inevitably come through in the fourth quarter with the biggest plays of the game, said Cone.
"That's what LA does for us. He makes big plays, he makes big shots, and he took over the game in that fourth quarter. He really, truly did," he explained.
Tenorio had slowed down in the third, but he fired 11 points in the fourth period -- none bigger than his dagger three-pointer -- to ensure that there would be no more comebacks for the Bolts.
It was a vintage performance from the "Tinyente," who saw his opportunity and embraced it.
"Nagkakataon talaga pag sa ganitong klaseng game, lumalabas yung instinct, yung basketball instinct. Parang sa ganitong game kasi, it doesn't matter na kung ano yung X and Os, kung ano yung game plan," said Tenorio.
"The thing is the in-game adjustment kung papaano babasahin yung game. Kanina opportunity lang talaga for me kasi they're really focusing on Scottie and Justin," he added.
"Yung ganoong klaseng opportunity talaga for me, I've been waiting for that actually. They were really focusing on Scottie and Justin. The whole series, I've been waiting for that talaga."
FROM THE ARCHIVES