Tenorio ready to find edge

By Joaquin Henson

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L. A. Tenorio

MANILA, Philippines — Barangay Ginebra quarterback L. A. Tenorio has experience on his side in matching up against Meralco’s Baser Amer or Mike Tolomia and said he’s primed to face the Bolts “young” guards when the PBA Governors Cup Finals gets underway in Lucena tonight.

Tenorio, 33, was the Finals MVP when Ginebra beat Meralco, 4-2, in the Governors Cup last season as he averaged 17.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists. In the Game 6 clincher, he compiled 25 points, five rebounds and six assists in 37:18 minutes. The rematch comes a year later with both teams bringing back imports Allen Durham for Meralco and Justin Brownlee for Ginebra.

“I have to be ready to match up with all the ‘young’ guards of Meralco,” said Tenorio, referring to Amer, 25, and Tolomia, 24. “My mindset is to find an edge against them. For sure, Meralco wants to bounce back and definitely has plans for me so I’ve got to be prepared for that.” A possible cross match-up for Tenorio is two-guard Chris Newsome who’s bigger than either Amer or Tolomia. Down the line, the other guards in Meralco’s roster are Anjo Caram, Joseph Sedurifa, Joseph Yeo and Simon Atkins.

Tenorio said Brownlee’s experience in two previous conferences with Ginebra is a big plus factor. “Seeing different kinds of defense in every series, I think Justin learned a lot from that and he has to bring that every game against Meralco,” he noted. Brownlee was brought in by Ginebra coach Tim Cone for the last Commissioner’s Cup despite measuring below the import limit of 6-10 to get him ready to defend the Governors Cup crown. As if to show he’s ready, Brownlee scored a career-high 46 points to power Ginebra to a 115-105 win over TNT in Game 4 to clinch the semifinal series last Sunday and advance to the Finals.

With Jared Dillinger back in harness and Ranidel De Ocampo now in the fold, Tenorio said Meralco will be a stiffer challenge from last season. “With JD and RDO, it’s a tougher match-up for us,” he said. “They bring versatility and most especially, their experience to Meralco.” Tenorio said they negate the advantage that Ginebra’s Joe De Vance has against other teams in match-ups at the three spot.

“JDV is always a match-up problem with other teams but against Meralco, I think they can match up with us,” said Tenorio. “With Scottie (Thompson), I think he has to be more aggressive offensively and defensively.”

An advantage for Ginebra is 7-foot Greg Slaughter’s return to active duty. Slaughter missed the last Governors Cup Finals with a hamstring injury but he’s now ready to battle. Since suffering an ACL tear against Mahindra during the eliminations of the last Governors Cup, Slaughter sat out 52 straight games before he was reactivated for this third conference. He’s averaging 14.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.6 blocked shots and 27.1 minutes in five starts over 16 games in the Governors Cup. Ginebra is 4-1 with Slaughter as a starter.

“Starting or not makes no difference to me,” said Slaughter. “Whatever is good for the team, I’ll do it. We’ve been working hard for this, we’re ready. I can’t say how many games I see this going but we’re just going to take it one game at a time. The goal is to win four. I think this will come down to who wants it more.”

Ginebra guard Sol Mercado, who played a key role in defending Durham in the last Governors Cup Finals, said he’s prepared to go up against the prolific Meralco import all over again. “I’m not sure if I’ll defend Durham but if coach Tim calls on me to guard him, I’ll definitely be ready,” said Mercado. “I like the challenge of that match-up.”

Mercado, 33, sat out three games early in the Governors Cup because of a strained calf muscle and struggled to return to form. But in the semifinal series against TNT, Mercado delivered a strong message that he’s back, averaging 9.8 points. “It was tough to get back in rhythm but I think I finally started to find it towards the end of the eliminations,” he said. 

In the last Governors Cup Finals, Mercado started in five of six games. This conference, he hasn’t started in any contest. “My role is the same as it’s been all playoffs, bring energy off the bench,” he said. “Against Meralco, we’ll need to be sharper in all aspects. We must be fundamentally sharp on defense because they move the ball so well and everyone is a threat. Offensively, we must move the ball quickly and work for great shots because they’re the best defensive team, statistically speaking.” Mercado, who’s won only one title in eight seasons, said the key for Ginebra to win the Finals is to dominate the boards and dictate the tempo. “I’m ready,” he said.

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