By REYNALD MAGALLON
Inspired by the emotional return of LA Tenorio, Barangay Ginebra put up a masterful performance to dominate Terrafirma, 110-99, in the 2023 PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City on Sunday, Dec. 3.
The Kings made sure to give their veteran leader a fitting welcome after Tenorio was sidelined for almost nine months following his battle against colon cancer.
Tenorio, the PBA Ironman record holder, started for Ginebra and was greeted by applause and cheers from fans, teammates, PBA officials and even the opposing team.
Although still far from his usual deadly form, Tenorio’s presence seemed to be enough of a boost for Ginebra which seized control of the contest beginning the second frame.
Settling down after an emotional opening frame, the Kings went on a blistering 20-3 run that turned 31-34 deficit into a commanding 51-37 advantage midway through the second.
Ginebra never looked back from there as Terrafirma never really got into a rally enough to threaten the defending champions who improved to a 4-1 record in the standings.
Triple towers Christian Standhardinger, Japeth Aguilar and Tony Bishop led Tenorio’s welcoming committee as they dominated inside the paint for Ginebra.
Bishop put up 26 points and 11 rebounds while Standhardinger chipped in 24 points and 10 boards.
Aguilar chipped in 19 points and seven rebounds while Jamie Malonzo and Maverick Ahanmisi had 14 and 11, respectively.
Tenorio only finished with six points but those drew the loudest cheers from the crowd.
Meantime, Chris Banchero nailed a clutch floater with 2.8 seconds left as Meralco survived a huge fourth quarter from NLEX with a 97-94 victory.
The veteran point guard displayed grace under pressure, blowing past the Road Warriors’ defense for the go-ahead basket that saved the Bolts some blushes after squandering a massive 29-point advantage early on.
Banchero only finished with 15 points but took care of the most important basket that also preserved another Herculean effort from import Suleiman Braimoh who dropped 38 points and eight rebounds before exiting the contest in the final four minutes due to an apparent leg injury.
Chris Newsome chipped in 14 points while Bong Quinto added 12 including the game-sealing free throw that notched Meralco’s back-to-back wins for a solo third spot of the standings with a 4-1 slate.
Meralco actually looked to be on its way to an easy victory after establishing a huge 77-48 advantage following a Banchero basket midway through the third frame. NLEX, however, refused to just roll over and die, exploding for 32 points to threaten the Bolts in the waning minutes.