LA Tenorio hopes Cone's 'one step backward, two steps forward' ploy pays off in Game Six
Ginebra starters turn into spectators in the fourth quarter of Game Five. Jerome Ascano

LA Tenorio felt Ginebra coach Tim Cone took the “one step backward, two steps forward” approach when he benched his starters in the fourth quarter of an 89-80 loss to Star in Game Five of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series on Friday night.

Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar, and Jervy Cruz didn’t see action in the entire payoff period, while Sol Mercado played only 20 seconds in the quarter where Cone turned to his role players led by Mark Caguioa and Jayjay Helterbrand to mount a comeback that fell short.

Chris Ellis was the only starter who played substantial minutes in the payoff period.

“That's a strategy of coach Tim,” Tenorio said of a ploy famously pulled off by grand slam coach Tommy Manotoc in the 1980 Open Conference finals between U-Tex and Toyota.

“Kilala na namin siya. He knew na this game is hindi talaga para sa amin. Feeling ko yun ang naramdaman niya, so ginawa niya yon for us to be ready for the next game. Kumbaga ni-reserve na rin niya yung energy for the next game.”

“Ginagawa niya ‘yun 'pag alam niyang walang nakukuha sa starters niya, especially how many games na kami in ten days, 'di ba? Dire-diretso kami,” he added. “So alam niya na yung starters niya, medyo pagod na rin.”

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Tenorio contributed just five points after missing all but two of his 11 shots and dished out just one assist and one rebound in 28 minutes.

“Hopefully maging fresh kami for the next game – next two games,” Tenorio said.

The Gin Kings star point guard didn’t have any complaints getting benched as he saw Caguioa and Helterbrand deliver what Cone wanted from his starters.

“Credit din doon sa mga hindi sumuko – Mark and Jayjay – at yung last five na nandoon sa loob ng court,” Tenorio said. “Siguro kung ako rin yung coach, I'll let them finish the game. Whatever happens, I'll let them finish the game kasi sila nagpababa ng lamang eh. To be fair na rin sa kanila.”

Star forward Marc Pingris was hardly surprised that his former coach let his bench players finish the game.

“Kay coach Tim naman, dati na kasi niya ginagawa sa amin yun eh, dahil gusto niya pagpahingahin yung mga first five niya: LA, Japeth, dahil medyo maalat sila, so baka may pumutok naman dun sa hinugot niya,” Pingris said.

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“Humabol pa nga eh, so expect mo na yung na kung sino ipapasok – katulad ng sinabi ko rin sa mga teammates ko na i-expect niyo na kung sino ipasok sa inyo, kailangan hundred percent maglaro kayo dahil iba na yung labanan dito, so kailangan suportahan natin yung bawat isa sa atin.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos