AMID chants of “MVP, MVP!” from the Smart-Araneta Coliseum crowd, LA Tenorio calmly sank two charities that restored order for the league’s most popular team.
The smallest man on the court once against stood tallest when Barangay Ginebra withstood a late fightback by Talk ‘N Text to hack out a 110-102 victory on Tuesday night and claim the last quarterfinal berth in the PBA Governors Cup.
Tenorio rose to the occasion after Mark Caguioa - the acknowledged face of the franchise - fouled out with less than three minutes remaining, scoring the last seven points of his team in a game that had the fans at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum at the edge of their seats down the stretch.
“Isa lang iniisip ko nun eh (when Caguioa fouled out),” Tenorio related. “It’s about time na mag-take charge ulit ako.”
Asked what he told Caguioa when the reigning league MVP headed towards the bench after committing his sixth and final foul, Tenorio said, "Medyo mayabang pa nga ako eh, sabi ko sa kanya ako na ang bahala."
In all, the Gilas Pilipinas playmaker tallied a double-double of 24 points — making all his 11 charities — and 10 assists, on top of three steals in 39 minutes.
The Kings thus arranged a showdown with sister squad and top seed Petron in the knockout quarterfinals on Thursday, with the Boosters enjoying a twice-to-beat advantage.
The Kings banked on a strong start, establishing a double-digit cushion that grew as many as 21 points — in a stark contrast to their 99-113 loss to the Texters in their elimination round meeting last Sunday that forced the sudden-death.
“Maganda yung adjustment namin,” Kings coach Ato Agustin said.
Caguioa sparked the Kings’ sizzling start, firing half of his 18 points in the first quarter where the crowd favorites zoomed to an 11-point lead.
It was Dior Lowhorn’s turn in the second quarter when the import contributed 12 of his 31 points to help the Kings stretch their lead to 16.
But the Texters chewed off the lead and came within three points after a Larry Fonacier free throw less than three minutes to go in the fourth canto.
Fonacier spearheaded the Texters’ rally and ended up with a season-high 31 points that went for naught.
Ginebra (110) – Lowhorn 31, Tenorio 24, Ellis 19, Caguioa 18, Mamaril 8, Wilson 4, Baracael 2, Aguilar 2, Helterbrand 2, Urbiztondo 0, Maierhofer 0
Talk 'N Text (102) – Fonacier 31, Fells 26, Castro 14, De Ocampo 8, Alapag 6, Ferriols 4, Carey 4, Peek 4, Anthony 2, Aban 2, Al-Hussaini 1, Reyes 0
Quarterscores: 26-15, 57-41, 87-78, 110-102