There's a first time for everything.
LA Tenorio’s most fervent wish – to win a PBA Philippine Cup title – was finally answered when Barangay Ginebra beat TNT Tropang Giga, 82-78, last Wednesday, December 9, 2020 at the Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena & Cultural Center Powered by Smart 5G.
In his 14-year pro career Tenorio had not won an All-Filipino title. Not with the powerhouse San Miguel Beer team or the storied Alaska Aces. And it actually took him 8 years with Ginebra before he finally realized that dream.
Tenorio wanted that championship so badly and he played so hard to get it that he wound up the Finals MVP in the process.
“All-Filipino championship lang hiningi ko sa Panginoon pero binigyan pa ako ng bonus (MVP Award). Pero thank you. First and foremost, thank you kay Lord for giving the whole team the strength. Sobrang (hirap) pinagdaanan namin dito sa bubble. As you all know, bago ako nakapasok dito at saka si Japeth (Aguilar) marami kaming pinagdaanan,” said Tenorio.
Tenorio, 36, had to go through three teams in a 14-year pro career and a global pandemic to even just get to the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Clark Giga City.
Additionally, Ginebra missed its starting center Greg Slaughter who did not sign a contract renewal; Ginebra’s other big man Japeth Aguilar—recovering from an injury was late joining the team in the ‘bubble’; and Tenorio himself had to undergo a Laparoscopic appendectomy.
He also had to go through the months-long isolation inside the PBA bubble thinking about a baby daughter born just a few days before departure for Clark.
After needing to go through all that Tenorio was understandably grateful for winning both the championship and the MVP award.
“Unang una gusto ko magpasalamat sa mga teammates ko. Sinuportahan talaga nila ako noong time na kailangan ko maghabol. Sa training staff. Our PTs. Our coaching staff and especially kay coach Tim (Cone). Binigyan niya ako ng chance to play ulit kahit meron akong karamdaman,” said Tenorio.
Ginebra beat TNT 4-1 in the championship playoff to annex its first Philippine Cup crown since 2007. And TNT did not go down in Game 5 easily even leading late in the game.
Simon Enciso drilled a three-pointer, forced Stanley Pringle to commit a turnover, then drilled another three-pointer to push TNT to a 5-point, 73-68 advantage with 5:01 to go in the game.
Aguilar scored on a charity split then Pringle drilled back-to-back three-pointers as Ginebra grabbed the lead for good, 76-73, with 3:18 to go in the game.
Tenorio zipped an alley-oop pass to Aguilar who slammed the ball into the hoop to extend the Ginebra lead to 5 points, 78-73, with just 1:57 left to play.
Tenorio settled the outcome of the match with another assist as he found an open Joe Devance inside the paint. Devance scored from just underneath the goal to push Ginebra ahead beyond recall, 80-73, with just 56 seconds left to play.
Tenorio himself finalized the count, 82-78, on free throws against field goals by Simon Enciso and Samboy De Leon and a free throw by Troy Rosario.
Then the horn sounded, cannons sprayed plumes of confetti all over the court and Tenorio walked towards his teammates as he savored the experience of winning the first Philippine Cup title of his career.