By JONAS TERRADO
BOCAUE, Bulacan – LA Tenorio’s final act to a conference filled with clutch performances gave the country’s most popular team another championship.
Tenorio scored 26 points, including a key free throw down the stretch as Barangay Ginebra San Miguel weathered Meralco’s late comeback and retained its PBA Governors’ Cup title with a 101-96 victory last night before another record-setting crowd at the Philippine Arena here.
Majority of the 54,086 fans, a figure that broke the two-day old league mark of 53,642 in Game 6, witnessed Tenorio unload five three-pointers that gave Ginebra a big lead.
But that nearly disappeared when Meralco narrowed the gap to four, 100-96, with 22 seconds remaining.
Tenorio nearly scored the dagger from the right side of the arc but missed.
Luckily for him, Japeth Aguilar was there for a crucial offensive rebound before Tenorio split his two charities, 14 ticks left, triggering another celebration for Ginebra and its legion of supporters.
Ginebra captured its 10th championship overall and 20th for coach Tim Cone, the league’s winningest mentor.
Three of Cone’s title were won with Tenorio, who was later named as the Cignal-PBA Press Corps Finals Most Valuable Player to cap off a conference filled with clutch performances.
Incidentally, Tenorio was named as Finals MVP in all of the three titles he won a pro career that began in 2006.
He had eight points in the first quarter that saw Ginebra take a 27-19 lead, shared the scoring load with Greg Slaughter, Justin Brownlee and Mark Caguioa to give their team a 52-37 halftime lead, then put up a scoring exhibition with 10 in the third that kept Meralco at bay.
It appeared there would be no repeat of the Kings’ thrilling finish to last year’s finals when Justin Brownlee ended their eight-year title drought with a buzzer-beating triple. But the Bolts nearly made things exciting yet again after slowly trimming the gap behind hardworking import Allen Durham and Jared Dillinger.
Meralco, however, fell short of erasing that painful defeat, watching Ginebra savoring the winning feeling at their expense.
Brownlee finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists, Scottie Thompson had 14 points, nine rebounds and five steals and Greg Slaughter claimed his first career pro crown after 12 points and five rebounds.
Durham delivered 26 points, 24 rebounds and nine assists and Dillinger broke out of a shooting slump that hounded him all series long with 20 points.
GINEBRA 101 – Tenorio 26, Brownlee 23, Thompson 14, Slaughter 12, Aguilar 10, Devance 10, Caguioa 4, Ferrer 2.
MERALCO 96 – Durham 26, Dillinger 20, Hodge 14, Newsome 11, Caram 9, Hugnatan 7, Amer 6, Lanete 3.
Quarters: 27-19, 52-37, 81-64, 101-96.