Barangay Ginebra bags all-Filipino crown—and pays tribute to its absent fans
In a conference played inside a bubble, where fans were barred from the stadium, Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone did not let the moment pass without a shoutout to the most passionate cheering section in basketball.
“To all the Ginebra fans watching right now, this one’s for you,” Cone said, speaking inside an empty stadium but aware of the reach his message was going to make.
The Kings again showed steely determination in the stretch, outperforming an undermanned TNT Tropang Giga in the last five minutes to hammer out an 82-78 Game 5 victory late Wednesday evening to claim the PBA Philippine Cup in five games at Angeles University Foundation.
The Kings iced the series, 4-1, for their 13th franchise title and first all-Filipino crown in 13 years.
Japeth Aguilar was unstoppable the whole game, finishing with 32 points on just 12 attempts from the field. He took 19 free throw attempts against a hapless TNT defense and added nine rebounds for good measure.
But it was LA Tenorio who masterfully pulled the strings on Wednesday night, dishing off two key assists in Ginebra’s final run that knocked the fight out of TNT. Tenorio, who finished with 10 points and six assists, was named Finals Most Valuable Player for his steady leadership all series long.
“I came here [into the bubble] looking for my first all-Filipino title and God gave me a bonus,” Tenorio said.
In the Finals, the Kings again got off to a dream start, outplaying the Tropang Giga in the crucial stages of the game with a mix of offense and defense to jump out to a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
After TNT finally got a win, Ginebra countered with a Tenorio-inspired Game 4 victory that put the Kings on the verge of the crown. And TNT faced even more problems. Already with Ray Parks Jr out of the series because of a strained calf, the Tropang Giga lost another key starter in Jayson Castro.
But TNT refused to simply fold, even taking a five-point lead with five minutes remaining in the match on a Simon Enciso triple.
And again, Ginebra rolled up its sleeves and went to work. The Kings reeled off a 14-5 finishing kick with Aguilar and Stanley Pringle providing the firepower and Tenorio keeping the squad in rein. Pringle, who finished with 13 points, had two triples in that run while Aguilar slammed home a perfect Tenorio lob to deflate the Tropang Giga. After that dunk, Tenorio fed Joe Devance for another basket, who made it 80-73 with 56 seconds remaining.
The endgame run, especially the Aguilar dunk, would’ve generated an ear-splitting roar from a full-house crowd had this tournament been played under normal circumstances. But a pandemic pushed the tournament into a self-contained environment, depriving Ginebra of its crowd support.
But the Kings heard their fans’ cheers, after all.
“We’ve gotten thousands of messages of support and that kind of support really gave us a lot of extra motivation,” swingman Jared Dillinger said.
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