Finals MVP Again: LA Tenorio plays biggest when the pressure is at its highest

As we all know by now, Barangay Ginebra prevailed in a nerve-wracking affair over the Meralco Bolts in Game 7 of their epic 2017 PBA Governors’ Cup Finals series, 101-96, to successfully defend their Governors’ Cup title.

I was fortunate enough to be seated courtside inside the Philippine Arena to witness all of that game’s glory, where LA Tenorio, 33, delivered a memorable title-clinching performance.

Tenorio dropped 26 points including five three-point bombs to cap a Finals run with another championship and another Finals MVP award — his third as he joined an elite group.

Just being a few meters away from all the action made the experience altogether more amazing. By the time Tenorio was knocking down huge triples in the second half to respond anytime Meralco would try to wrestle for the lead, I was shaking my head in disbelief. I know I shouldn’t be, but there’s just something in Tenorio that makes me and perhaps the 50-plus thousand people inside do that too.

Look, there is no way Tenorio is 5-foot-8 right? He looks so tiny on the floor. If you’re not too acquianted to him or the sport itself, a first glance of him would make you think he isn’t that strong.

But it’s that trademark durability that has keyed his longevity in the league. For all the monickers throughout the years like Gin-eral, Lieutenant, or the vernacular tinyente, Tenorio is indeed, and fittingly, the PBA’s undisputed iron man. His teammates are in unison about the extraordinary discipline the point guard has exemplified throughout the years. He gets to practice early. He quickly ices his feet when the sessions are done; he rests and recovers well, stays healthy, and does everything needed to maintain tip-top shape.

Tenorio has logged a ton of minutes throughout his 12-year PBA career. He has maintained a regimen that’s hard to match and one that many players around the association respect. That he played the Governors’ Cup Finals while nursing spurs on his right elbow (something he has developed in recent years) makes the run even more remarkable.

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What makes it more thrilling is that when you observe closely at how Tenorio plays, there is an aura an unpredictability that comes with it. Though you already have a hint of what he is capable of, you will never know exactly when he will do something special.

He has this uncanny body language on the floor, and players will never be able to guess his next move. One second he dribbles casually, and the next blink, before someone even gets to know it, Tenorio has already pulled up fir another three.

Think of all the big shots he has hit throughout his career. Of course, there’s the recent kill shot in Game 2 which pushed Ginebra up 2-0 in the series.

I can recall his off the glass, no timeouts left buzzer-beater back when he was with Alaska. The Aces beat San Miguel that night, 102-99 with Tenorio just casually bringing the ball up front with five seconds left then calmly jacking up a 27-footer which gave Alaska the win.

I can go back to his UAAP days when he drained a stepback jumper against Adamson to cap an Ateneo rally he and JC Intal jumpstarted. With seconds left, Tenorio exploded to make it appear he is going to drive hard to the hoop, steps back, and launches a triple. Bang. 58-55, Ateneo stuns Adamson.

There have been many Tenorio highlights in between. Whether it’s an elimination game or the most crucial match under the most intense atmosphere, Tenorio remains collected. He is a court general and a leader for a reason. Under the most difficult of times, under the most immense of pressures, you can expect Tenorio to do the same thing he does all year round without the slighest of changes. His Game 7 showing was another testament to that.

Many point guards have entered and exited the league since Tenorio started his PBA career. Tenorio is 33 now, but remains one of the league’s standards. From the looks of it, he could be doing what he did in Game 7 until he is 40 because the unparalleled toughness that is what truly defines his game.

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