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LA ready for clincher

For Barangay Ginebra guard LA Tenorio, the key to winning Game 7 of the PBA Governors Cup Finals is rebounding. Ginebra would’ve clinched the best-of-7 series in Game 6 if only the Barangay controlled the glass but instead, Meralco won the battle of the boards, 51-41. It was the first time in the duel that Ginebra was outrebounded by the Bolts.

Tenorio admitted Ginebra had rebounding lapses in Game 6. “It’s a concern,” he said. “We’re supposed to control the rebounds because of our size. That can’t happen again, not in Game 7 because it’s a do-or-die for both teams.”

In Game 1, Ginebra had more boards, 60-40, and won handily, 102-87. The teams were even in rebounds, 51-all, in Game 2 and 50-all in Game 3. Then, Ginebra had the edge, 50-49, in Game 4 and 57-50 in Game 5. Meralco grabbed more offensive rebounds, 22-12, in Game 6 and with three less turnovers, it meant more possessions and more chances to score for the Bolts. That would explain Meralco’s advantage in field goal attempts, 87-71.

Tenorio said Ginebra got off on the wrong foot last Wednesday. “We had a poor start in the first quarter,” he said. “To win, we’ve got to play hard for 48 minutes. We need to start strong. It’s either we play a close first quarter or we open a big lead. But if Meralco has a strong start, it’s hard to catch up.”

Tenorio said Ginebra’s gambit of zoning Meralco early in Game 6 backfired. The Bolts tweaked their starting lineup by bringing in Garvo Lanete instead of Baser Amer and leaving the quarterbacking chores to Chris Newsome. Lanete responded by triggering Meralco’s dizzying 29-point first period explosion. Lanete and Reynel Hugnatan each tallied eight points with two triples in the first 12 minutes. Lanete wound up with 15 points, including three-of-five triples and Hugnatan 24 points, including six-of-12 treys. While Tenorio said the key is rebounding, Meralco coach Norman Black pointed to outside shooting as the Bolts’ passport to the title.

Tenorio said he was surprised by Hugnatan’s emergence as a rifleman in the Finals. They were long-time teammates at Alaska before parting ways. “I joked Reynel about becoming an outside shooter late in his career,” he said. “Reynel’s playing without pressure. Coach Norman has given him the license to shoot and Reynel is doing it with a lot of confidence. Credit coach Norman for bringing that out from Reynel.”

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Tenorio said there’s no tomorrow after Game 7 so whatever it takes to win, Ginebra’s prepared to roll the dice. “Allen Durham is a given, he’ll do his thing,” said Tenorio. “But we’ve got to do a better job of limiting the others like Lanete, Reynel, Newsome, JD (Jared Dillinger) and Baser Amer. We can’t afford lapses in defense. We can’t allow anyone of them to get a big game. We’ve got championship experience on our side but it’s up to us how to use it to our advantage.”

Tenorio said he expects Greg Slaughter to outdo himself in the closer. “Greg creates mismatches and is a dominant force on defense,” he said. “Coach Tim (Cone) started him in Games 5 and 6 because of what he can do. He attacks (Allen) Durham aggressively. In Game 6, we saw how Meralco also attacked Greg aggressively so we’ve got to help out. Japeth (Aguilar) is our best weak side defender and he’s still learning to play a balanced game within our system.”

Since opposing imports Justin Brownlee and Durham usually neutralize each other, the responsibility of carrying their team to victory lies on the shoulders of teammates. In Game 6, five Ginebra players scored in double figures led by Brownlee with 23. Slaughter netted 18 but none in the last quarter while Scottie Thompson and Tenorio chipped in 12 apiece. Joe DeVance had 11. For Meralco, Durham showed the way with 28 points in a no-relief job and Newsome collected 10 points, seven rebounds and 11 assists.

With Sol Mercado injured, Tenorio has played extended minutes in Games 5 and 6, logging over 40 in both outings. But he’s not feeling it. “I don’t feel tired,” he said. “Maybe, it’s the adrenalin rush. There’s really no choice because Sol’s out. I’m ready to play whatever minutes coach Tim gives me. It’s no problem. I don’t do everything anyway so I’m not exhausted at the end of the game. Sometimes, I’m just the facilitator. It depends on what role I take. But whatever my role is, I know we’ve got to win Game 7. This is it. We’re not ready to give up the title.”

There’s a lot of championship experience with Ginebra. DeVance has won seven titles, Mark Caguioa five, JayJay Helterbrand four, Jervy Cruz three, Tenorio and Aguilar two and Thompson, Mercado and Aljon Mariano one each. Kevin Ferrer, Jammer Jamito, Slaughter, Paolo Taha and Raymond Aguilar are still chasing their first championship.

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