MANILA, Philippines -- The Big Dome still wasn't as full as it could have been, but Barangay Ginebra fans made their presence felt in the Gin Kings' gritty win against the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters on Sunday.
Nearly 4,000 fans -- most of them cheering for Ginebra -- attended the showdown between the Gin Kings and the Fuel Masters at the Araneta Coliseum and were treated to one of the most thrilling games of the 2021 PBA Governors' Cup so far.
Ginebra, cheered on by their fans, overcame a late five-point deficit to force overtime, where they went on to beat Phoenix Super LPG, 125-121.
"Sobrang na-miss namin sila," said LA Tenorio, the hero of the game, of the Gin Kings' famously passionate supporters.
The crowd at the Big Dome cheered on Tenorio even as he conducted his post-game interview, after hitting the clutch three-pointer that sent the game into overtime, as well as the dagger triple in the extra session that finally sank the Fuel Masters.
It was just Ginebra's second game in front of fans this season, as the PBA was finally given the go-signal by the IATF and the local government of Quezon City to allow live spectators in the venue. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Big Dome will only accommodate 3,000 to 4,000 persons, a figure that already includes the teams and league staff.
For Tenorio, having the fans urging them on with their "Gi-ne-bra" chants was crucial to their come-from-behind win.
"Two years, hindi namin sila nakita. Itong game na 'to, hindi 'to mago-overtime kung 'di dahil sa kanila," he admitted.
"Dalawang bubble, 'yan ang hinahanap namin. Medyo kami yata 'yung nagkaroon ng pinaka-weird na feeling na naglalaro ng walang fans," he added.
The Gin Kings won the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup in the bubble in Clark, Pampanga, but celebrated their championship without their beloved fans at the Angeles University Foundation Gym. In the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup, they exited in the quarterfinals after losing to eventual champions TNT.
With fans back in the stands, Tenorio and the Gin Kings are getting an additional boost in their mission to defend their Governors' Cup crown.
"Nagpapasalamat kami sa lahat ng Ginebra fans, thank you, na-miss namin kayo. Lahat ng games na lalaruin namin, para sa inyo, definitely," he said.