'In LA we trust': After early struggles, Tenorio rounds into form for Ginebra

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 30 2020 02:47 PM

'In LA we trust': After early struggles, Tenorio rounds into form for Ginebra 1
Barangay Ginebra point guard LA Tenorio is defended by TNT center Poy Erram in Game 1 of the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup Finals. PBA Media Bureau

MANILA, Philippines -- Barangay Ginebra is seemingly getting "an extra player" for its best-of-seven finals series against TNT Tropang Giga, as veteran point guard LA Tenorio is reaching his full fitness after struggling at the start of the conference.

This, according to Ginebra head coach Tim Cone after Tenorio took charge down the stretch in Game 1 and orchestrated their 100-94 triumph over TNT Tropang Giga, Sunday night at the Angeles University Foundation Gym in Angeles City, Pampanga.

"He's in playoff mode," Cone said after Tenorio put up 12 points, 10 assists, and five rebounds without a single turnover in over 43 minutes of action.

Tenorio assisted on Arvin Tolentino's layup that tied the game at 92 with five seconds left in regulation, then set up buckets for Aljon Mariano and Japeth Aguilar in overtime to help the Gin Kings pull away from TNT.

His efforts were doubly important as TNT limited Ginebra star Stanley Pringle, pressuring him into a turnover with 20 seconds to go. Pringle had 24 points in the game but shot just 10-of-23 from the field.

"They (TNT) 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 Cone.

"And he was really asking for it, he was asking for the ball, and you know, in LA we trust," he added.

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Cone had no problem in giving the reins to Tenorio, the veteran floor general who has won four championships with Ginebra and steered them to victory in multiple games. The coach noted that Tenorio was used to that kind of situation late in the game -- with the ball in his hands, making the winning play for the team.

Still, Tenorio's performance in the game was notable considering how he had been playing at the start of the conference. Tenorio was one of the late entrants into the PBA's bubble in Clark, Pampanga, as he underwent an appendectomy shortly before the restart of the conference.

For a while, it seemed as though Tenorio's famed Iron Man streak was at risk, but the guard missed no games even as he recovered from surgery.

"They told us he would be three to four weeks out, minimum. Minimum, three to four weeks out," said Cone. "He played his first game 13 days after surgery. And that's amazing."

Tenorio wasn't at his best in the elimination round, averaging just 6.64 points and 4.18 assists per game, while playing a shade over 25 minutes per contest. He upped those numbers to 12.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and three assists per game in their semifinals series against Meralco, while playing over 35 minutes per game.

"It's almost like getting an extra player, suddenly, because he's suddenly reached his peak form, he's no longer being bothered," Cone said of Tenorio.

It's a stark contrast to how he was in the elimination round, when he had to deal with the effects of the appendectomy both on and off the court.

"In our sixth or seventh game, he was late getting on the bus to go to the game because they had to clean his wounds. His wounds were oozing, and he had to clean his wounds, and we had to wait on the bus until that finished," Cone recalled.

"I mean, what a guy, you know? They don't call him the Iron Man for nothing. It's well-deserved, the reputation he has," he added. "Even more so, off the court and what you see that he goes through to get ready. It's amazing."

Tenorio and the Gin Kings have a couple of days to recover before Game 2, set for Wednesday at the AUF Gym in Angeles City, Pampanga.

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