LA Tenorio insists San Miguel still the yardstick in any all-Filipino tournament
“All-Filipino, San Miguel is still the team to beat,” says Ginebra guard LA Tenorio. Jerome Ascano

BARANGAY Ginebra may have started its PBA Philippine Cup campaign on a high note with an 89-78 victory over Magnolia on Christmas, but that’s hardly a statement of its title credentials in the season-opening conference.

That’s what LA Tenorio insists, saying the road to all-Filipino glory still goes through San Miguel Beer, which has won its first two games to gain a share of the early lead with NLEX.  

“All-Filipino, San Miguel is still the team to beat,” Tenorio told “Sila pa rin yung defending champs, so lahat ng teams sila pa rin yung target.”

The Gin Kings finished seventh after the eliminations of the last all-Filipino tournament, but became one of the lowest-seeded teams to go all the way to the finals before losing to the Beermen in five games in their best-of-seven series.

Ginebra gained a measure of revenge against SMB in the Governors’ Cup, eliminating the Beermen in the quarterfinal to put an end to SMB’s ambitious grand slam quest.

Now, the Gin Kings try to prove they can beat the Beermen without an import, parading a towering lineup anchored by Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar to match up against SMB’s June Mar Fajardo, prompting observers to install both teams as the favorites to reign supreme in the league’s most prestigious tournament.

But Tenorio is quick to play down the hype, saying they still have a long way to go before earning the lofty tag.

“Our goal naman is to go to the playoffs first, win games as many as we can in the eliminations, and put ourselves in a good position during the playoffs,” the veteran playmaker said. “And then I think from the playoffs, dun naman talaga makikita kung hanggang san makakarating.”

“But nakikita ko yung chances namin, nandun pa rin kami because we’re experienced and intact yung team namin,” he was quick to add. “May mga injuries kami, but hopefully maging solid kami.”

Before they collide with the Beermen on January 28 in their finals rematch, the Gin Kings seek to build some momentum as they continue their campaign on Sunday night against GlobalPort.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos